The new book group? Women form 'Lean In' circles
This April 16, 2013 photo provided by Wix Lounge shows organizer Mary Dove, talking to a group of women at a "lean in" meeting in New York. The group is inspired by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" which seeks to empower women in the workplace. (AP Photo/Wix Lounge, Galo Delgado)
NEW YORK (AP) — "Remember — you are your own brand," business coach Franne McNeal was telling some 100 women crowded into a downtown Manhattan office lounge one evening last week.
"If you lean back, you are denying the universe your greatness. So lean in, shout out, and get comfortable with who you are! Tonight is about teamwork."
Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer whose best-selling book, "Lean In," inspired the meeting, would surely have been happy with the turnout. Her book, and the national discussion it seeks to launch, is aimed at helping women empower themselves in the workplace. On its final page, it suggests forming small circles to continue the conversation. The idea is about 10 people per group, but more than 10 times that number showed up last Tuesday in response to an open invitation on LinkedIn from Mary Dove, a New York psychotherapist.
"Do we do ANYTHING small here in New York?" Dove asked the crowd with a smile.
Many, though not all, the attendees had read "Lean In," which came out last month to a burst of publicity, blockbuster sales — and much controversy. Was Sandberg, as some of the negative reviewers asserted, essentially putting the blame on women for their inability to fully crack the glass ceiling? Was she giving a pass to government and employers, and instead firing, as one USA Today columnist wrote, the "latest salvo in the war on moms?"
Not surprisingly, the women at the New York meeting were fans of the book, saying that in Sandberg's anecdotes they'd found much to recognize from their own lives — especially instances when they "leaned back."
Lauren Tilstra, 27, had just read the book on a beach in Latin America, during a break between jobs. In an interview, she recalled that at her previous job, when her boss and mentor left, she realized she wasn't getting a seat at the table anymore — and wasn't being aggressive about claiming one.
"I was being left out of conversations," says Tilstra, of Hoboken, N.J. "I was kind of leaning back, and not getting into things that were going on. That's when I realized I had to find somewhere I could lean in." At her new job, which she began just this week, she hopes to gain a leadership role and build her own team.
Tilstra was happy for the chance to share her thoughts at the Lean In circle last week. After an opening talk, the facilitator, McNeal, organized the group into smaller circles, based geographically to make monthly meetings easier. "It's a unique group of women," Tilstra says. "These are women I never would have come across in my day-to day life." Her group plans to rotate between homes in New Jersey, much like a book club.