Have We “Leaned In” Enough?

Posted on July 9, 2013 by


There has been a great deal of ongoing dialogue regarding women and leadership generated by Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.  Sandberg’s book has thrust feminism, gender in the workplace, and developing women leaders to the forefront of our collective consciousness.  Countless women and men are having “aha” moments as they read of Sheryl’s experience and reflect upon their own.

Opportunities have been discussed and an organization created (LeanIn.org) to further explore the dialogue created surrounding gender in the work place.  
While the impetus towards identifying, developing and promoting women leaders is welcomed, it has left some wondering if not thirsting for more specifically related to women of color. The “like me” mentality that impacts women in general tends to be heightened as it relates to minority women.  These women often feel little or no support within the organization.  They may or may not have mentors and the mentoring relationship may be:

· one that is just a “tick mark” and nothing more substantive

· one in which the mentor genuine wants to help her succeed but simply is not equipped to do so due to lack of organizational clout (strong network, position of respect within the organization)

· one in which there is a disconnect (perceptions versus reality of the minority woman in leadership’s experiences, barriers, and opportunities)

Secondly, “the like me” mentality impacts the perceptions and assumptions minority women have about themselves in relation to their organization.  Minority women may feel a greater or more heightened sense of how different they are in relation to their peers as they are “encouraged” to conform to organizational standards for personal appearance. While we empathically believe diversity is alive and well, one has but to examine the perceptions and initial reactions to minority women in the workplace who choose to wear “natural” or more “ethnic” hairstyles versus straight or loosely curly/slightly wavy hair.

So what do you think? Does the #leanin movement address issues related to all women in the workplace or us there an opportunity to delve deeper as it relates to race and ethnicity?