Recently there has been a significant increase in discussions about women in high powered careers. This was touched off by Anne-Marie Slaughter's article in The Atlantic, describing "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All," followed by Marissa Meyer becoming CEO of Yahoo. The most recent explosion in the conversation has come after the release of Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In. At the end of the book Sandberg says "Let's Keep Talking..." and that her "goal is that this book is not the end of the conversation, but the beginning." To achieve this goal she encourages everyone to continue the conversation by discussing on the Facebook page, sharing on the Lean In website, and forming smaller Lean In circles.
These circles have been popping up all over the world as a result of Sandberg's book and excellent PR campaign. The mission of the organization that has Sandberg has formed is "Our mission is to create a global community dedicated to encouraging women to lean in to their ambitions." As I started receiving emails every day with numerous LinkedIn posts in the Lean In Community group, I began to wonder if this is another fad.
What about all of the existing groups with similar charters?
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE): "Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity."
American Association of University Women (AAUW): "Advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research."
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Women in Engineering (IEEE WIE): "The mission of IEEE WIE is to facilitate the recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines globally."
Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN): "To propel higher education to increase the number and advance the prominence of diverse communities of women in engineering."
Association for Women in Science (AWIS): "We envision a day when women of all ages will participate fully in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as manifested through equal opportunity, pay equity and recognition commensurate with their accomplishments."
Just to name a few. There are countless more women's professional associations, societies, academic fraternities, sororities, and other organizations. All of these groups target similar groups of women to be members, but we are all professionals, students, mothers, partners, and volunteers with limited time and money. It is not possible for everyone to support all of the groups. So when I made a decision not to seek out a group inspired by the book, I wondered if we are doing ourselves a disservice by dividing our voices.
We may summarize the common themes from these organizations into three main concerns:
- equal pay for women
- equal representation of women in leadership positions and STEM fields
- options to improve work-life balance
Wouldn't that message be much louder coming from over 400,000 voices all together for one purpose? They include 218,150 like the Lean In Organization on Facebook; plus the 23,000 members of SWE; 165,000 members and supporters of AAUW; 11,820 members in IEEE WIE; 600 members of WEPAN; and 4,000 members in AWIS. Isn't this especially so now that Sandberg has done a great job starting the conversation?
The three concerns above are somewhat simplified and each organization has a niche, but what if there were an alliance of women's organizations that brought all of these organizations together on a these few key topics, uniting them with one strong voice and purpose?