There has been much talk about Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, unsurprisingly. In fact, the term itself, "Lean In", has been trending globally - it has now become a brand, a global community (www.leanin.org) and even a popular 'hashtag' on Twitter.
It is the first time that people, both men and women alike, are finally hearing that wake-up call - the hard hitting wake-up call which made us all realise that we could do more to encourage and inspire women to dream big, and to be courageous enough to push themselves into doing whatever they want to do. I commend Sheryl greatly for her achievement in raising this awareness on such a grand scale.
However, I have noticed that much talk surrounding "Lean[ing] In" has centred mostly on women who already in the workplace. Whilst I have nothing against this, I feel as though younger women, girls of my own generation in the UK who are still in school, are, comparatively, missing out on this exciting 'buzz'.
I do applaud those who go to great lengths to empower young women, and I acknowledge that a lot of schools (but not all) nowadays are proactive in organising events, such as 'Women in Leadership Days', in order to do this. I also note that many businesses arrange networking and work experience programmes exclusively for girls in the Sixth Form. In fact, I did attend a week's work experience last year, organised by IBM, just for Sixth Form girls; I learnt a lot from the week, and I look forward to attending a similar event coordinated by Goldman Sachs this summer. Pinky Lilani, a UK based inspirational entrepreneur, has done a fantastic job in putting together excellent networking events, including the "Women of the Future Ambassadors Reception" which I also had the privilege of attending. I am grateful to my school for granting me the opportunity to sign up for such events, and I urge all young people to sign up for as many of these as possible.
Nevertheless, I am still not sensing much of this 'buzz' amongst my generation here in the UK. Only last week did I overhear girls, academic and around my age, complain about how much they "hate listening to this constant talk of feminism", and how all this talk about it "emphasises even more that gender discrimination exists, and that's bad!"
This made me wonder why girls my age are embarrassed to discuss feminism, when all feminism advocates is our rights to be equal to those of men, not better. Feminism is not, and should not be, about rising above men. Maybe this common misconception is what sheds a negative light on feminism. Instead, hopefully we women would reach a common ground on feminism.
These are the type of girls who do make up a significant proportion of my generation, and these include those who ask me "why do you always bother attending all of these events?" My answer is that I attend these events because I want to, and it is this self-motivation that pushes me to sign up for as many of these events as possible. It is this thirst to "Lean In" that many girls of my generation are lacking. I have to credit my parents who encouraged me to have this thirst from young, and I am aware that perhaps a reason why some girls in the UK lack this drive is because not everyone has parents who actively discuss these issues at home. This is not anyone's fault in particular - society's attitude as a whole towards women has yet to fully evolve.
So to answer the question, yes, young women of my generation do need to "Lean In" - a whole lot more. Many dismiss such opportunities to "Lean In" right now, not realising what the consequences of this may be in the near future, when this may affect important aspects of their lives, such as job opportunities. This is perhaps why some of the awareness and optimism has to also be channeled towards those who are just about to enter the workplace, in order to spread out the 'buzz' more evenly across generations.
However, us girls in this generation need to be proactive too - we cannot always depend on the adults/working women to be pushing us constantly. So to all the young women out there: there are opportunities out there just for us - let's actively "Lean In" and grab them ourselves.