Leaning In for Good

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By Liz Schuman

Sheryl Sandberg, you rocked my world.

Your mantra of leaning in opened my eyes. Not only are your hard-won experiences truth for me, but they are also lessons for my millennial offspring – a teenage son and teenage daughter.

Yes, I want that seat at the table.
My hand is in the air.
I’ll earn and expect those promotions … that raise … that plum assignment.
I won’t sit back.
I will lean in.

Reality check. There are naysayers opining about Sandberg’s message. Her book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” has simultaneously inspired and incited a national conversation about how women fare in the workplace and what happened even before they opened the door. As the COO of Facebook, a Harvard grad, and one-half of a techie power couple (spouse David Goldberg is the CEO of SurveyMonkey and previously sold his first startup to Yahoo for $12 million), Sandberg has financial, political and educational clout that most of us can only dream about.

Still, the idea that women have not arrived economically hits home. Women comprise 51 percent of the U.S. population and 47 percent of the workforce, yet a paltry 4 percent are CEOs and 17 percent are board members. Though some quibble with the statistic that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn (Catalyst), the fact remains that too few women in the workplace have moved into the C-suite and handed cold, hard cash (and stock options).

Still, one place where women are leaning in – driving the bus as it were – is philanthropically. Despite our collective weaker wallet, we give.
A study analyzing giving by age and gender by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, found that women of the Baby Boom and older generations give more to charity than their male counterparts and are more likely to give, when education, income and other factors affecting giving are equal.

How much more? 89 percent more.

We drive the giving decisions.

This year, in Baltimore, 2,800 Associated Women pledged more than $7.1 million to the 2013 Annual Campaign – gifts given in their name, often in addition to a household gift. The Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation of Baltimore, which funds programs that impact the lives of women and girls here and abroad, provided a record $100,882 in grants to nine local and international organizations.

Beyond the dollars, we’re also about action.

We chair the boards. We launch initiatives. We study issues and find solutions. And we learn from others. This year during Associated Women programs, we heard from powerful accomplished leaders:
• Kathy Manning, president of Jewish Federations of North America, spoke about the need for organizational savvy and leadership in the national philanthropic movement.
• Mariuma Ben Yosef, founder of Shanti House, a refuge for abused, neglected youth in Israel, spoke about overcoming obstacles and opening her doors – fighting every step of the way – to help those who had nowhere else to go.
• Brooke Goldstein, human rights lawyer and activist who fights for children in war- torn countries, shared stories of confronting injustice and inhumanity while putting herself at risk.
• Nancy Lublin, president of DoSomething.org and founder of the international Dress for Success movement, showcased how leadership and vision and a take-no-prisoners approach can uplift one idea and transform it into a life-changing movement.

Strong women, all.

With a nod to Sheryl Sandberg, these women live leaning in … proving that putting yourself out there leads to substantive change and achievement. All of us would do well to take these lessons to heart. As leaders and doers in our community, our workplaces and our homes, we have an obligation to lean in – to take a stand and ensure our world – globally, locally and personally – is better tomorrow than it is today.

Giving back is one good way to start.

For information on Associated Women, go to associated.org/women.

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Filed under Leadership Development, Philanthropy, Women

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