Leaning In: Taking a Seat at the Table

Empowering Women to Help Women

I'm not an avid reader but I am an idealist. I usually check out books and keep them as long as possible, checking them out three times, before I submit to the realization that I'm not actually going to take the time to read it. Life always seems to get in the way, and sometimes my attention span does too.

When I finally began reading “Lean In,” I quickly became frustrated with Sheryl Sandberg’s perspective. The message seemed loud and clear to me: “All women need to strive to be CEOs.” As a free-thinking woman - and one who doesn’t react well to being told what to do, my first instinct was “Maybe they don’t all WANT to be CEO’s! Maybe some women are perfectly happy working in mid-level roles, or staying at home with their children. Who are you to tell us how to live our lives?!”

I took the book back to the library without renewing it even once. One week later I got a notification from the library letting me know that the audiobook version was now available. I’d forgotten I requested it.

Because so many people recommended this book to me, I felt obligated to give it a second try. I ran back to the library, this time, picking up a pack of CD’s. As I headed back to my car to listen to them, I thought to myself, “I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.” I sat down, popped in the first disc and hit play.

This time, Lean In hit me very differently. Maybe because it was someone else’s voice… not just the voice in my head that was putting its own spin on every word.

As the founder of Made for Freedom, a social enterprise that works to combat human trafficking through ethical fashion, I am continually relating things in my life back to the concepts of sex trafficking, ethical commerce, and social enterprise.

As I sat back and listened to what Sheryl had to offer, as always, through my Made for Freedom lens, I realized the value of women “leaning in.”

For example, there is one red light district in Kolkata India called Sonagachi that has 11,000 women prostitutes. That’s an insane number of women working illegally in the sex trade in one place. How is it that there are SO many women, working in an illegal trade, in a very public way - and that no one is stopping this from happening?

Perhaps if we had more women striving to fill high ranking positions in government, it would be less likely that these red light districts and brothels would be overlooked. Perhaps the women who lean in could champion legislation that would prevent it, and penalize those responsible for driving it.

As I listened on, I was rapt. Sheryl had my attention and in that moment, it all began to make sense. Sheryl relayed a conversation she’d had with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee. She asked the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, what could be done to prevent the massive amounts of violence being inflicted on women in her country and throughout the world. Her response? “More women in leadership.”

As I listened, it became clear to me that regardless of their role in the workplace, we need more women at the table. For some women, this will be through activism or leadership in their community - for others, it will involvement through churches and non-profits and for others still, it will be done by raising through the ranks of the business world to break glass ceilings and create change by sitting at the tables normally populated by white male business executives. We all have a role we can play.

Since listening to Lean In, I have made it my goal to listen to the book once a year. As much as I didn’t want to be a CEO, I have found my way to into this role, and I want to remember the importance of my role at this table, to continually find that inspiration and encouragement to persevere in times of difficulty.

I took my seat at the table long ago, now it’s what I do with it that matters, and I choose to lean into my role as CEO, to my role in my family, to my role in my church. I will make my change from this seat, and hope to inspire other women to find a way to do the same.

If more women were CEOs, in high-ranking political positions, in leadership, in the military roles… If more women were writing and regulating laws around the world… then justice would happen from the heart of a woman, with the fierceness of a mother. If more women were in these roles, then more women would find protection, be saved from a fate in a brothel, a sweatshop, a low-valued role. Little girls would not be taken from their homes without someone shining a light on it. Women could help women rise up, protect one another, and seek justice for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

At Made for Freedom, we are LEANING IN. We are making a big difference. If you’re looking for a way to contribute and make your impact, join us at the table. We welcome your contribution and believe in your passion and ability to make this world a better place.

Looking for a way to get involved? Reach out to me directly at dawn (at) madeforfreedom.com, or explore these opportunities:

Become an Ambassador.

Become an Advocate.

Become a Volunteer.

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