How the Lean In Movement is Changing the Story of the Workplace

I recently had the opportunity to attend an event that was absolutely mind-blowing, game-changing and altogether inspiring. It was the International Conference for Lean In Leaders from around the world, hosted and sponsored by the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation. One hundred and twenty global Lean In leaders gathered at Stanford University on a weekend in August where we enjoyed the insights of many dynamic speakers, brainstormed how to grow our own circles and networks back in our home countries, and were inspired by the great work of every single individual in that room.

It seemed with each conversation I participated in, I was again blown away by the courage, conviction, and passion of the individual I was speaking with.

Women who stood up for equality in the workplace.

Women who stood up for equal pay for equal work.

For us in Canada, this may seem like old news – hasn’t this been a conversation that’s been had already? Don’t we already have a generous maternity leave program and aren’t we already seeing increasingly more women at senior levels in organizations across the country?

Yes, and there is still so much more work to be done.

These aren’t women who are stepped on, overlooked and passed over by their male counterparts. These are women who ARE being seen, they ARE being heard and they DO have seats at the proverbial table.

So why are they still talking?

These women know they had to work hard for where they are in their careers – women who hold extremely credible positions in the United States – positions that include COO of Facebook (Sheryl Sandberg), Chief Content Officer for Hearst Magazines and Order of the British Empire (Joanna Coles), United States Secretary of the Air Force (Deborah Lee James) and Editor-In-Chief of USA Today (Joanne Lipman) to name just a few of the extraordinary women who presented and mingled with us throughout the weekend.

These women are all capable, smart, hard-working women who rose to the top of their fields in a world primarily dominated by men.

The over-riding message? You can too.

Let me be clear. This wasn’t a male-bashing weekend. It was anything but. In fact, there was great dialogue about how can we make men feel comfortable again in the face of the #metoo outcry and in this age where women are increasingly contributing in the workplace and how does this change the face and dynamic of the workplace?

How does the inclusion of women impact how work gets done? How can we bring to light the micro-aggressions that occur every day when more vocal, dominant leadership styles are rewarded in the workplace, squashing out the equally valid opinions of the quieter voice? How do we understand the impact of ethnic minorities in the workplace and address the unconscious biases many face on a daily basis?

How can we create a workplace where we all feel safe, included and can contribute in a real way?Click To Tweet

This is what the Lean In movement is all about. It is a movement. A movement that champions the underdog and the visible minority. A movement that empowers independent women to be their best, most ambitious selves. A movement that cultivates a more fair and civil environment to work in that results in a more equal and resilient world.

In five short years since Sheryl Sandberg first published Lean In, this movement has grown to include 40,000 circles in over 160 countries. Anyone can start a circle – there are incredible resources available to you at

I am leading the start-up of a city-wide circle in Calgary – under the umbrella of the 4000 member strong Lean In Canada Network. This city-wide circle is set to launch in 2019 and I am currently recruiting interest, support and ideas around what Calgarians want and need in a networking organization that champions, supports and gives a voice to a more equal workplace for all.

Would you like to get involved?

Men and women are invited to join at Indicate “Calgary” as your city of choice to have your information transferred to this circle’s mailing list once Calgary’s website is live. And in the meantime, do reach out to me personally if you have any questions or would like to get involved at a leadership level. You can reach me at

And don’t just take it from me, here are some quotes from some of the incredible women who participated in the conference.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway at the 2018 Lean In Regional Leaders Conference?

A: Whenever you feel down or not worth it, remember the experience of these two out-of-this-world days and the inspiration this room held. 110 most inspiring leaders from across the world were in this room, each having their unique stories and strengths. And each of them killing it in their own sweet ways. If they can, so can you! Impossible is nothing! You always have the back of these leaders who won’t ever fail you. Get up and get it done!
~ Manishree Gupta, Lean In India Corporate Chapter

A: “We are the Lean In movement. Thus, it matters what we do, the community we build together, and how seriously we take this fight to move gender equity forward.”
~ Linda Brandt, Lean In Together Minneapolis-St. Paul Network

A: “An incredible opportunity to reflect on huge global achievement but to assess the massive opportunity Lean In can still achieve. As a female Vice President in a large global corporation, I feel proud to lead by example in taking the Lean In message through my organization around the world and to over 100,000 people. The potential to scale adoption even more through corporate engagement is huge and it was a privilege to pay it forward with my Convergys story and as a leader who is driving Lean In Europe from Belfast!”
~ Paula Kennedy Garcia, Lean In Ireland

A: “Lean in for me has been a community that keeps on giving and helping me thrive and face whatever challenge I’ve been handed. I wear the resilience cape with pride and love this tribe.”
~ Katie Walthall Mehnert, Lean In Energy

“I had five big takeaways:

  1. Lean In is changing the story of the workplace
  2. All women (and socially progressive men) have the opportunity to step up, be seen and be heard
  3. You can do anything you put your mind to
  4. Perseverance gets you everywhere
  5. Sheryl Sandberg is a real person doing her part – she can just do it at a level higher in the corporate world than most of us. P.S. She throws a fantastic party!”
    ~ Susan Elford, Lean in Calgary

To your success, in business, and in life,

Susan Elford

P.S. Are you a new business owner and seeking a kick-start to your fall to really get things done in your business? Applications are now open for my Accelerate! Mastermind program for new and emerging entrepreneurs. Cultivating new entrepreneurs is one of the things I love to do most. I invite you to join my community to gain the support, skill, and structure you need to get you to the next level. Click here for more information and to move your business forward, today!

PR Launchpad Guidebook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a Leadership Coach and PR Strategist who especially loves to work with women who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a full and satisfying life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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