No I won’t lean in because I stand up.

For all those who said if I publish this I am unfundable, tap into your own power. Here is my evolving relationship with gender inequality. Let time answer your fears or prove me wrong.

You are empowered as a human being to achieve your own potential. Through actualizing yourself you help to maximize us, the human race.

  • Note: I wrote this back in March right after Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book came out. I did not share this publicly previously. I first attempted to get it published and through later discussions and incidents since then I have an ongoing understanding of gender dynamics. I will address those in future posts as they happen.

There is a lot of talk going on right now about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement. The Lean In movement that surrounds the book encourages women to talk through and support each other in their shared obstacles in the home and workplace. I am not against mutual support and encouragement of people or of Sheryl Sandberg for wanting to have a discussion about the state of gender inequality. I am not an advocate of Lean In because it limits us. This concept of the “women in career” (in my case design/tech) movement has been bothering me for a long time. But it is the recent deluge of articles on the subject that has led me to write this.

Leaning in implies there are obstacles, battles that you need to brace yourself for and that this journey will be something hard in large part because of your gender. No matter what, for most people in life there is some battle they may face. And sometimes there will be no battle. Why lean in to life or expect to have to when you can actually just walk in the door?

The biggest battle here is not men versus women and the need to lean into some uphill obstacle outside of yourself, the biggest battle here is your own self perception of your own possibilities in life. No, I won’t lean in because I stand up.

Presenting your gender as part of the obstacle is part of the problem. I refuse to define my job or my capabilities in life through the lens of my gender. I will achieve what I can as a human being fulfilling my potential. I approach problems and goals from a personal standpoint. I ask myself what do I want to do now? Can I physically and mentally do it or figure out a way to make it possible? If I can’t achieve the goal at this moment what steps can I take to get there. Then, I act and work to make it happen. This attitude is something we need to empower people with man or woman. This is personal power and self confidence.

Marginalizing ourselves as women — the outsider always pushing to get in, does not lead to increased power. It only reinforces the thought that women exist at the edge of the community, not an integral part of it. It disappoints me when publications preface articles about amazing individuals with their gender. It devalues many outstanding women’s accomplishments in their fields by introducing them as so and so “woman in tech” as if the fact they are a woman is the main reason the publication is highlighting them. I would rather they introduce these women as “Amazing People” rockstars in their field. Can you imagine an article Men in Tech — Meet the men behind Dropbox and Airbnb? No. That article will more likely get titled — Meet 2 of the most powerful CEO’s in Silicon Valley changing the way we think about sharing.

I do not want to be defined as Chloë “ women in tech.” But as, Chloë founder of a technology company. I think you impose limitations on all that you can achieve as a human being if you start to limit your thinking. I have yet to feel my opinion was not heard or not valued because of my gender. I think this is a lot about how I present myself and what I expect. People meet you on the level you present yourself. I never have any expectations that the person I am talking to is going to value me less because I am a woman — because I myself do not value myself less because I am a woman.

I am tired of reading the women in Silicon Valley rant about how women can’t get ahead coupled with stories that focus on the inane aspects of life. If anything if you show up as a woman in a room of 200 men you have an advantage at the networking event not the disadvantage. I’ve read stories on women in tech blogs based around women stressing about what to wear to meet with angels and VCs. I have no idea how one can function in the business world if all the time is spent stressing on one’s outfit. This leads me to wonder do they have confidence in what they are presenting? The article implied they believe they got funded or didn’t get funded based on their outfit. What man would thinks so little of himself, what he is working on and the intelligence of the people he is meeting with to think that the main reason funding did or didn’t happen was based on an outfit!?! Men and powerful women would not bring gender into this equation and instead would come up with all the reasons they thought the meeting went well or didn’t go well. This is about personal self confidence and empowerment.

Despite what I have said, I see value in increasing societal awareness of women who work in technology but that is because for a country as a whole both young boys and girls need more exposure to the opportunities and careers available in technology. But I do not like when in doing so we call women out as if they barely belong and we are congratulating them for being there.

More than that, what society needs most is for us each, to stand up and be the highest form of ourselves. Wake up! You are personally empowered to achieve what you want to achieve. Assume you will succeed. Very few successful people I know waste time inventing or talking about obstacles that may or may not occur. When an obstacle presents itself then they figure out the way around it. If you stop looking for gender obstacles you will probably see other aspects of your situation with new clarity. This is a call for personal self empowerment and fulfillment of human potential for all men and women. Go forth and be bold. No leaning required. Just stand up. Be all that you are.

The reactions I received from friends and family regarding what I wrote and their fears around me putting it on the internet it have lead me to have growing understanding of the dynamics of the lean in movement.

Reactions to my piece from friends, family and acquaintances.

  1. Chloe, you will never get funded and may never get another job if you share this.
  2. I agree with you Chloë but Sheryl Sandberg has 500 Million dollars so it’s ok for her to say what she wants. When you get to that point you will have permission to speak your mind as well.
  3. Several reporters — yes we agree with you but it’s what our editors want to print. Most of the editors are still male. That is why we cover the handbag Martha Stewart wore to trial and will never cover a man’s suit.
  4. Some friends have said Sheryl Sandberg has no hero’s journey and is therefore uninspiring. I have never met her. She seemlingly followed the rules according to her biography and was no an underdog, so no she does not or at least did not share a hero’s journey. But, to those people who say they do not relate to her because she never struggled; I say to you, although you are uninspired, she is an amazing human being because as is anyone who achieves her position.
  5. This is generational and career specific. Sheryl Sandberg unfortunately accidentally undermines women who are single, without husbands backing their every step. I am not her so I can’t speak for her. What I can say is single or married we are each as human beings empowered to be all that we are. Push as hard as we can, go as far as we can, achieve greatness in our own lives.

Bring it on men and women. Discuss. Debate. Stand Up. Let’s fix this. Let’s rock the power of all humanity to stand up and be all that we are. Tweet your thoughts @cloudchloe

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