Are You Ready To Step Forward?
“What will you do if you have nothing to fear?”
Virginia Tan, a young lawyer from Singapore, asked herself.
Leaving London which she has lived for many years to a strange country——China to develop her career is actually the biggest challenge for her. Mother tongue in English, she is quite good at delivering impromptu speeches in fluent English. However, she once joked that: “if I have nothing to fear, I will give a speech in Chinese.”
And today, she made it.
The creation of the idea
In 2013, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg released her new book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which topped sales rankings in the Amazon website for 7 weeks and became the top of nonfiction best-sellers of New York Times for 6 weeks. Four months later, the Chinese version of Lean In hotly sold in China. Sheryl Sandberg utilized her personal experiences to encourage women to “lean in” to their ambitions and step forward in great passion. Sheryl discovered that women have a universal psychological barrier in the workplace. So she put up with a heroic assumption——“If you are fearless, what will you do? ”
Afterwards, she initiated and launched a worldwide website especially for career women——LeanIn.org to support over 14,000 circles of women “leaning in” around the world.
The birth of Lean In Beijing
After reading Lean In, Mariel Reed from America and Allison Ye from China were inspired and fully agreed to the principles which have been advocated in the book, such as being confident in the career, not dropping your career just because you want to have a family, and also choosing husband carefully. So, they invited several of their friends to read and discuss. In their first meeting, there were seven people—four Chinese, a Singaporean, and two Americans. In Allison’s apartment, they lamented the lack of female voices in academia and talked about why women treat each other so badly at work for the first time. And this is the prototype of Lean In Beijing.
In March of 2013, ten friends got together and set up Lean In Beijing. Although they came from different profession varying from finance to education, they shared the same value of being women and being powerful. They meet monthly or bi-monthly to help each other set and accomplish personal and professional goals, encourage each other to sit at the table with men, not on the sidelines. And they also tells each other to choose husbands carefully, so they can make partners a real partner — sharing an equal half of the housework. When it comes to the original idea of set up Lean In Beijing, Charlotte, a member of the team, said that: “As we work on improving our own circle, we also want to break women’s traditional opinion towards family and work and facilitate them to pursue their own definition of success and happiness.”
In college, Lean In is popular
In November 2013, Lean In Beijing incubated and launched the first college circle in Renmin University (Lean In RUC), followed with circles in Tsinghua, CUC, UIBE, BFSU, and PKU. By November 2014, a total of 7 active college circles have formed in Beijing.
Isabel, the manager of Lean In CUC, first heard of lean in from one of her friends. For the same recognition of the idea in that book, she and several friends of hers set up their own circle just as the book advised. The original circle was formed by five mutual friends. They met regularly, discussing the problems they met in both study and work and sometimes talking about academic issues, such as gender politics and female eating habits. In April, 2014, WeChat public platform Lean In CUC came out online and began to send some articles about women’ growth and health. In the meanwhile, they started offline activities towards the whole school. In several sharing meetings, the topics of Lean In CUC were very rich. They not only discussed grounded issues, such as how to walk out of your confusion, but also some academic ones, such as the reconstruction of female roles in society and the golden age of women intellectuals. And people who joined this kind of activities expanded from the fixed members to the whole university. Sometimes, males also came to join discussions.
Through these sharing meetings, Isabel found that even in a university with so many good-looking ladies, lots of female students hold confusing attitudes towards physical appearances: they were worried to be labelled for “showy but not substantial”, even if they were main forces in many college leagues.
The circle is a backup group in essence. It encourages college girls to face challenges bravely and push them to better themselves through the peer help, mentor guide and community sharing. A member in Lean In CUC hesitated to abandon her present major and change into another field for a while. Almost all people around her held the opposed opinions except her friends in Lean In. “We gave out our advice and shared the relevant information with her. No matter what decision she finally made, we would always support her choice.” Isabel recalled.
The manager Isabel remarked that: “The biggest harvest in Lean In is to gain a mental energy. Every time we chat with each other, you will find that your anxieties and worries are amazingly same with others. Then you know you are not alone and you have the whole circle to support you. ”
According to Isabel’s observation, Lean In College is getting more and more popular in the mainland because there are new managers joining in the contacts consistently. They come from Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chongqing and Shenzhen and many other places. In the predictable future, there will be more and more Lean In circles in China’s universities.
Maybe we have got used to listen rather than speak; maybe we have been accustomed to obey rather than to lead; maybe we have been accustomed to sit on the sidelines rather than at the table with the men. However, why can’t we ask our inner selves–who we are, what we want, what the meaning of our life? Being a woman is never the bafflement in your path to happiness, your self-constraining thought is. If you step forward, get out of the circle you are in now and enter in a wider world, what your life will be like?