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Lessons From Google and SXSW: Everyone Lean In and Include Women

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on June 20, 2014 12:55 PM

Say what you want about Sheryl Sandberg's admonition to lean in, but whether you agree with her theory or not, she has added fuel to the long-stagnant discourse on the professional advancement of women. And it seems like companies are taking note -- and taking responsibility.

Now that the issue of women's professional advancement is definitively on the map, we can all start doing something about getting there.

Women Should Lean In

If you're unfamiliar with Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In," she essentially states that women need to be proactive about moving forward within a company. She notes that having a supportive partner, and finding a mentor, all play a role in a woman's professional success. Detractors to her theory argue that the onus, again, is placed on women to do the changing -- rather than society.

Men Should Lean In Too

Some communities recognize that change can't happen if you just rely on women leaning in. You need men to lean in too ... "to point out their talented women colleagues," says Forbes. One group that used this strategy is the Advancing Women Professional and the Jewish Community's Men as Allies campaign, which simply asks men to take a pledge: "not to convene or appear on all-male panels." It's that simple ... and successful. Even SXSW, the conference of music aficionados and tastemakers that convenes in Austin each year has a similar requirement -- any panel consisting of three or more speakers must include at least one woman.

How You Can Help

As lawyers, I'll be the first to admit that we sometimes over-think things. Maybe the solution is a lot simpler -- and staring us right in the face. Maybe we all need to lean in for women and minorities. We should all take a stand, make a pledge, whatever you want -- but the only way to effectuate change on a company-wide level is to change the corporate culture.

Companies often times create special teams or committees -- as a company, make a pledge to make these teams and committees representative of the diversity in the corporation. Include at least one woman on all teams and committees -- it's "not just good for women -- it's good for everyone who values excellence and equity." Does your company value these things? If so, start making changes now.

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