Friday, November 22, 2013

The Peak of Tres Chic Speaks: Leaning In

Happy Friday!  I hope you all have had a good week.  Today's post is editorial in nature, the second in the "The Peak of Tres Chic Speaks" series (see the first here), so I completely forgive you if you want to sign off and come back Monday for more beautiful interior inspiration.  

A few weeks ago I finally purchased Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In.  Sandberg is the current COO of Facebook, has previously worked in a VP role for Google, and for the Secretary of the Treasury.  I'm only a few chapters in, but I highly suggest all you ladies go invest in a copy, or at least go read a few pages while standing in Barnes & Noble (ha!).  The book traces its origins to a TED Talk Sheryl gave about women unintentionally holding themselves back in their careers, in which she encouraged women to "lean in" rather than leaning back- to seek challenges and pursue their career goals without giving in to the fear of what challenges their ambition might bring. 

As women in 2013,  we can be grateful for the world we live in today- we have limitless career choices and opportunities.  Yet the hard reality is that women are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world.   You can read the book for all the statistics, but in the corporate world, the percentage of women at top positions has barely changed at all since 2002.   What is more, women often face the harder choices between personal fulfillment and career advancement.  You don't often hear men talk about the struggle between staying at home with their children or continuing full time in the workforce.

Sheryl, a 40-something married mother herself, has faced these issues personally.  She feels that,  "A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes."

My reaction to the book has been oddly intense.  When I graduated college in 2010 and went to work in the oil and gas industry, I was hell-bent on lying a strong foundation for my career.  I was in a mostly male industry, which I was fine with, but I noticed that my desire for success matched my colleagues.  Iron sharpens iron, right?  After a year and a half of working in oil and gas, however, I decided to pursue interior design with fervor and leave the energy industry.  

While the drive to learn and succeed is still inside of me, I think I've softened a lot since leaving the corporate world and being back in school.  That's why I feel like a part of me I'd forgotten has reawakened since reading Sheryl's book.  She encourages women to lean in and not count themselves out of promotions, new opportunities, or advancement simply because you fear you won't be able to handle it now or in the future.  Your job needs to be challenging, it needs to be rewarding, and you need to feel like you're making a difference- and if you live your life in anticipation of one day having kids, or one day getting married (or a host of other life events or potential work complications) you won't "lean in" now and be excited to return to a fulfilling job after starting a family.  

While the interior design field is a mostly female industry, the opportunities for advancement are limitless.  I've been fortunate enough to meet some kick ass interior designers that are doing much more than casually decorating.  I've also been lucky to have mentors in my life who were incredibly intelligent, worked in a field they were passionate about, had families, and were married to men who saw them as a partner and as an equal.  They had sat at the table, engaged in the hard discussions, and had made their husbands real partners.

  So I've decided to stop unintentionally (or perhaps, intentionally?) holding myself back just because I'm not in a corporate environment anymore, and lean in to proactively take the steps necessary to get closer to my career aspirations.  What will that look like?  Well, first, it will mean writing out the goals I have for myself that are scary to articulate (both this year and long term).  It will also mean stepping up to the plate and doing what I can now to get closer to where I want to be. And that's where I'm going to start.  And I hope you will, too! 

Have you read Sheryl's book?  What are your thoughts on "leaning in"? Why do you think women are still so poorly represented in the top positions at companies, despite our opportunities?

{image via Vanity Fair}


  1. Love this! I went through the same cycle. My first job was tough, and I loved every minute of it. I went back to graduate school and softened. Now, I am searching for my first job out of grad school, but all of these feelings of career/family/balance are plaguing my search. I love your take, and I am going to join you in writing down those scary goals! xo

  2. I loved it! I work in the corporate world in a similar industry to oil/gas and it's been awesome to be authentic and just as scrappy as the best of them!

  3. This book is on my bookshelf in my office. Such a great read! My first job out of college was at a big accounting firm and I was one of only 3 women in the office, and that's when I read the book. I've moved on from that job now, but I definitely carried what I learned from Lean In to my current job.

  4. I've been really curious about this book. Gonna have to pick it up this weekend!


  5. Soooooo I love this post. I have been out of touch in the blog world for awhile, but loved the insight. While I am not married or with babies, I somewhat relate to this. I am going to have to pick this book up. Must read.

  6. I will present a different side of the coin. I am also in a predominantly male industry and have been leaning in my whole life. My dad always told me that my sisters and I could do anything and would not countenance any slouching. I went to a women's college who also telegraphed to me that women were competent and capable in every way. So I don't think I have held myself back at all. I only had one child so I could take it to the top. What I didn't have that is critical to anyone's success but especially women is a sponsor. Not a role model or a mentor but a sponsor. This is not a complaint it is just a fact. I think Sheryl Sandberg is incredibly competent but also has had sponsors, Larry Summers and Mark Zuckerberg. My experience is that when I have leaned in, unless the environment is receptive or you have a sponsor, you could be a threat. Yes, I think women of a certain generation have opted out but there are still obstacles presented by the system. My advice would be to lean in and also find that sponsor. Maybe it is sour grapes on my part but I think it is disingenuous to acknowledge the critical role that sponsors have played in Sandberg's career.

    1. Thanks for your feedback! You present an interesting point.

  7. Can't wait to read this book over Thanksgiving! Thank you for sparking my interest with it :)

  8. I'm about halfway through and when I finish I'm giving it to my daughter who just graduated from college.

  9. Hi there!

    I just have a question about your site - If you could please email me back when you get a chance I'd greatly appreciate it.



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