Why I’m Able to Lean In
When my mother was in business school, there were five women in her graduating class. (Two of whom she still works with.) When I went to business school, women made up a bit more than 30% of the class. That’s progress.
My mother, who has spent her career in finance, has always provided a wonderful example for us kids of what it means to be successful, professional, and passionate. She also worked hard to create a home and family life that mattered just as much.
But it wasn’t only up to her to make this happen. My father played a critical role, convincing me that many women who are able to lean in have a man beside them, leaning in just as far.
My father, a journalist who was chained to his job with a passion, put in even more hours at home. No one served him a cocktail when he walked in the door, as my grandmother used to for her husband. No one had a pot roast waiting.
The house was not my mother’s domain, but rather the domain of them both. And although my mother would never say it was truly split down the middle, she would also say he did a pretty darn good job. (Every few years, they would switch chores. For years, one would manage laundry, the other dishes. And then, usually at a moment of random choosing, they would swap.)
Same for his dedication to his children. I can’t count the number of times that strangers made comments on his attentiveness and dedication. No one comments on how “inspiring” it is for a mother to consistently come to her kids’ soccer games. But people say something when they see a dad doing it. And not just in the 1980s.
These days, my husband, an accomplished architect who balances his own passion for both his career and his family, frequently tells me stories of his own encounters with strangers bolstering his good-dad ego. When he takes our daughter to the pediatrician solo (“Is her mother sick?”); when he flies alone with my daughter (“you’re SUCH a good dad!”); when I travel for business and he’s in charge at home (“I could never do that!”).
Ultimately, like my mother, I have the power to lean in to my career because my husband is willing to lean in at home.
If helping a woman lean in is also about helping her male partner lean in, then we need to continue to encourage the men around us. And if positive encouragement from society is key to helping men lean in, then it’s great to see progress over time.
But progress is just that: progress.
It doesn’t mean that the journey is over, or the duty has been done. A business school class where 30% of people is women is not half. A dad who still gets accolades for the same thing a mom is expected to do hopefully won’t always be the norm. (Let’s praise moms too, y’all.)
As a woman leaning in, I’ve got a man right next to me, doing the same. And I’m one of the lucky ones.
Girl or guy, young or old, let’s all #leanintogether.
(See more posts on this topic over at the LinkedIn Influencer #leanintogether series I took part in.)
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