Leaning in – one year later

Empty boardroom (flickr reynormedia)On the second Friday of every month I have lunch with an amazing group of women.

We met a year ago right after Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In came out, when someone posted to a popular Boston mom’s email group to gather a group of women together to meet and discuss the book.  About 30 of us attended that, and our lunch group was born.

We have distilled into a group of 14, about 8 of whom make it to lunch each month.  Among us, we have women who work in engineering, medicine, real estate, law, marketing, consulting, startups, finance, and HR.  All of us are professionals, many with advanced degrees.  We all live in the greater Boston area.  And we are all moms.

It is one of the things I most look forward to each month.

At this point, one year in, we know a lot about each other.  Each person’s life is a continuing story that we get a monthly snapshot of – we remember month to month about people’s husbands, their bosses, and their aspirations.  In this year, a few of us have changed jobs.  A few have had a baby or gotten pregnant.  A few have dropped out.

Each month we have a topic or theme – sometimes a guest speaker or a book we all read.  But the best part of our lunches is the sharing and the problem-solving.  Commonly, we bring our work issues into lunch – she’s taking on more at work without a raise or promotion, she has a hapless boss who used to be a peer, the business she’s trying to get off the ground.

We share and critique and sympathize and celebrate.  We encourage.  We listen.  We occasionally mention Sheryl Sandberg, but increasingly less as time goes on.

I’ve heard some great stories this year from these women – the woman who flew across the country to get the meeting with the person who can give her the raise she deserves, the woman who found a perfect sabbatical opportunity right when she was at her wits’ end, the woman whose business partner moved to Scandinavia right on the cusp of their success.

We’re a Greek chorus of opinion, too.  “You have to ask for more” “No guy would take that on without more salary” “Sheryl Sandberg would NOT approve of that” “You have to stop going to those meetings.”  We encourage each other in ways we don’t encourage ourselves individually.  It’s success by peer pressure.

And sometimes we also talk about our kids.  Or our preschools, our nannies, our au pairs, our mothers, and our husbands.  And we share and encourage and celebrate those things also.  But the fact that we’re moms is more implicit in our discussion than explicit.  “I had to get my daughter so I didn’t get to confront that coworker until the next day” is the norm.

I’m not sure why this groups works so well or feels so good.  It’s a pretty random – albeit self-selecting – group of women.  We have no real guidelines, just self-leadership.

I’m grateful to be a part of it.

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