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A Women’s Roundtable On ‘Leaning In’

Our in-studio roundtable guests, from left: Cathy Minehan, Betsy Myers and Nancy Gertner (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Our in-studio roundtable guests, from left: Cathy Minehan, Betsy Myers and Nancy Gertner (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

To women across the world who wish to serve in leadership positions and achieve their full potential, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, says “lean in.”

Sheryl Sandberg at the 2012 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (World Economic Forum/Flickr)

Sheryl Sandberg at the 2012 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (World Economic Forum/Flickr)

It’s the title of her new book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” and a call to action for women to make choices that focus on what they can achieve, to take risks and to embrace success in their professional lives.

We hear from a roundtable of influential women on how applicable Sandberg’s thesis is to their own success.


Betsy Myers, Founding Director of Bentley’s Center for Women and Business.

Cathy Minehan, former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and current Dean of the School of Management at Simmons College.

Nancy Gertner, former federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts and current Harvard Law School professor.

Katie Rae, Managing Director of TechStars in Boston and founder of start-up institute Project 11.



NPR, “Sandberg’s book has generated a spectrum of responses — some positive, some mixed and some outright hostile. Most common is the complaint that Sandberg seems to put the burden on women to change, rather than challenging the institutional, cultural and psychological factors that present extra challenges for women.”

NPR, “‘Boys, [Sandberg] says, are socialized to be assertive and aggressive and take leadership. Girls? ‘We call our little girls bossy.’”

The New York Times, “Even her advisers acknowledge the awkwardness of a woman with double Harvard degrees, dual stock riches (from Facebook and Google, where she also worked), a 9,000-square-foot house and a small army of household help urging less fortunate women to look inward and work harder. Will more earthbound women, struggling with cash flow and child care, embrace the advice of a Silicon Valley executive whose book acknowledgments include thanks to her wealth adviser andOprah Winfrey?”

60 Minutes, “It’s not just men who hold women back, women do it to themselves. They play it too safe at work, worry too much about being liked and turn down opportunities in anticipation of having a family one day.”


Other stories from this show:

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  • creaker

    The very first question should be “is this what you want?” – for many people, women and men, the answer is “no”.  Many folks have successfully sacrificed their lives for the brass ring only to find out they made the wrong choice.

  • Alyson_gr

    need to stop fixating on who is right in the mommy wars, on who made the right
    choice. There is no right choice – just good enough, just the best that we can

    need society to fundamentally rethink how to value parenting, how to measure
    what it teaches us, and how to take those enriching (and frustrating)
    experiences and plug them into a workplace that has equitable, flexible options
    for all-in, not-in, and everything in between.

    are no systems in place to quantify and value the myriad experiences of
    parenting. Worse still, skills that parenting teaches us in spades – like
    patience and compassion – are sorely needed, yet rarely codified into job
    descriptions or rewarded in companies. There are no job titles, professional awards,
    speaking engagements, press coverage, public affirmation or public plaudits for
    stay-at-home moms (and dads). That time just shows up as a big, empty space.

    The move from family back
    to work is exceptionally difficult, particularly in the US, because of
    societal, structural, political and economic issues. The ability to move
    from one arena to another (home, work) as needs and situations evolve should be
    considered a primary goal in the redesign of a future equitable, flexible and
    (financially viable) workplace.


    Part of the problem is
    the definition of ‘successful’ and influencial. Why are there no stay at home
    moms on the panel? Are they really not able to be seen as “one of the most successful
    women in Boston”. It would be wonderful if WBUR would leverage its influence
    and lead the way in re-designing the system. A bold first step could be to
    elevate those who have “opted out” instead of “leaning in”
    by giving them a level platform to contribute their Insights, experience and
    frustrations with this broken system on air. 

  • Maureen Manning

    As a retired female partner looking back on my career at a large corporate law firm, I do not regret any of the times I leaned in.  I do regret the times I leaned out because of fear or lack of confidence. 

    My advice?  Lean in as hard as you can until you get to where you want to be.  Then you’ll have the power to lean out whenever you want to.

    Cambridge, MA

  • AC

    i have an outreach guide from ALL engineering disciplines on various competition/events we do for kids that are FREE!! all with professional engineers as mentors & volunteeers!!

  • AC

    cambridge science festival starts this month on the 12th -  a lot of the kids stuff is free & cool for adults too –
    & there are some super interesting events for adults too…..

  • Pointpanic

    THis sounds like nothing but technotopia corporate rhetoric disguised as concern for women  in teh workplace. certinaly there are better standard bearers than Sand berg who is nothing but a mouthpiece for the elites.

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