"I believe our world would be a better place if half our companies and half our countries were run by women," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says in her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. But how do we get there? Sandberg acknowledges that there are gender biases to surmount in the workplace and across society, but to begin to reach the goals set a half century ago by the women's lib movement, we have to do work within. Lean In focuses on the moments of self-doubt women experience at work: when we assume a passive position because we believe a man will automatically get the promotion we want, when we stop reaching for higher titles in anticipation of one day having children, or when we choose to sit on the sidelines rather than around the conference table. At these times, Sandberg urges women to lean in instead of slinking back and to have confidence in our talents and value. Of course, not everyone aspires to be a CEO or to run for office. And that's okay. Sandberg's personal account of her rise through the ranks, her negotiations with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, and her experience balancing a demanding schedule with raising a family are inspiring no matter what path you aspire to blaze.
The social media COO admits to her own doubts, highlighting her anxiety about coming across as unlikable (she points out that for men success and likability are positively correlated, whereas for women they are inversely correlated), and says there are still times when she feels like a hack. How do we rise above this? She suggests forming groups of ambitious women exchanging ideas and supporting one another in Lean In Circles. Only time will tell whether these circles will catch on and spark a revolution, but it's motivating to hear from successful women committed to passing on their legacy of achievement to the rising generation. So Vogue created a digital Lean In Circle here, asking powerful, smart women in fashion for their definition of leaning in. Fashion, more than most industries, is historically a space in which women are at the helm-45 percent of the members of the Council of Fashion Designers are women, which should be the case in Congress and Silicon Valley, too. But there's still another five percent to go to be at Sandberg's ideal 50/50, and in womenswear, shouldn't we be the majority voice?
One woman's words don't offer a universal solution to gender inequality, but stories of success that make other women see the potential in themselves and that they are powerful can.
"The beginning of my career was in fact influenced by the principal of leaning in. It was my husband Uday Kak's idea to create our brand with my aesthetic at its core. Together we put my creativity to work-it was only possible with our equal partnership in both our business endeavor as well as our marriage. I was filled with fear about putting myself out there, as many women are, but with his support on an emotional and practical ... more
Photo by: Vogue
"The beginning of my career was in fact influenced by the principal of leaning in. It was my husband Uday Kak's idea to create our brand with my aesthetic at its core. Together we put my creativity to work-it was only possible with our equal partnership in both our business endeavor as well as our marriage. I was filled with fear about putting myself out there, as many women are, but with his support on an emotional and practical level, our business became possible.
We opened our store in 2008, and just months after that we opened a showroom. Now, five years later, I am am launching my namesake ready-to-wear collection and opening a second store. My daughters' births (Anaïs, two and a half years old, and Lune, three months old) were both sandwiched between all of these changes and expansions. Establishing the store allowed us to add other projects as well as to build our family, so the initial courage we took led to more risks, joys, and opportunities.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh is a boutique owner, designer, and mother of two. She runs her store with her husband and partner Uday Kak on the Lower East Side of New York City. This year, she is opening a new branch in Los Angeles and is launching a ready-to-wear line.