“It’s time to cheer on the girls and women who want to sit at the table.”

- Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Founder of Lean In

This semester, we were excited to partner with Lean In @ Columbia to offer six Lean In events at CCE, including a training session for their board and five unique circles.


About Lean In

Lean In is an international organization, founded by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, which promotes the success of women in the workplace. All over the globe, chapters of Lean In organize events, programming, and circles, groups of individuals who meet weekly to discuss personal and professional goals. Lean In @ Columbia is a community like no other on campus. Their diverse and passionate members, spanning all disciplines, encourage one another to make the most of their college experience and to pursue fulfilling careers. They hold weekly meetings that facilitate the personal and professional growth of their members.

Teaching Skills, Sparking Dialogue, and Building Community

#IamRemarkable Workshop

To kick off the partnership we held an event with Lean In moderators based on a Google-designed workshop, with the goal to improve women’s self-promotion skills and change the social perception about women’s self-promotion.

Research shows that men believe they deserve higher salaries, apply more easily for a promotion, and initiate salary negotiation 4x as much as women do.

(source: “The confidence code,” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, 2014).

Through writing and presentation exercises, participants explored their comfort level in identifying, owning, and communicating their strengths, value and experiences. Some key takeaways and tips from the group:

  • Accomplishments do not speak for themselves: Track them, share them in a way that feels comfortable for you, and be vocal about your role in a successful project.
  • Sharing achievements and contributions in not bragging: Creating stories that explain the situation, your concrete actions, the outcomes and contribution to the big picture is a tangible way to demonstrate your skills and abilities.
  • Supporting other women is key: Encourage your peers to share success stories and be aware of your own reactions to other women self-promoting.
  • Change your language: Remove the “just” and “sorry” from your everyday language (e.g. “Just emailing to” …and “Sorry, but I wanted to check…”) Using powerful and confident language change’s others (and your own!) perceptions of your work and contributions.

The Circles at CCE

After the training, moderators brought their circle on a visit to our center’s conference room in East Campus, Lower Level. Some members had been to CCE before, but for many it was their first time and we were thrilled to have them!

Circle moderators selected a career related topic to focus the group discussion, and CCE counselors Rebecca Schramm, Alison Smith and Tracy McGarry joined to share resources, pose and answer questions. Incredible discussions and peer resource sharing took place around topics including interdisciplinary studies at work, internship searching, finding meaning at work, and LGBTQ identities in the workplace.

LGBTQ Identity in the Workplace

In this circle we discussed the personal decision to coming out in application materials, on the interview, and in the workplace, and how group members had navigated these choices in the past. We shared key resources for identifying LGBTQ friendly companies including HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and Out for Undergrad Conferences. Resources on these topics can be found on CCE’s website.

Expressing Diverse Academic Interests in Application Materials and the Internship Search

We identified strengths that members with interdisciplinary interests bring to the workplace including being able to look at a problem from multiple perspective, empathy, critical thinking, and unique hard and soft skill combinations. We spoke about finding ways to express multiple interests in the workplace, including pairing specific job functions (e.g. writing) with a different industry (e.g. technology). Other strategies including getting your foot in the door in one position, and then moving throughout the organization to try different things by moving into a variety of roles. Additionally, we spoke about using interdisciplinary interests to become a specialist on a team in a certain area that other’s don’t know about. For students with a wide variety of interests or a resume with very diverse experiences, we spoke about the possibility of creating a summary of qualifications or profile to tell their story.

Internship Search Strategies

In this circle, we talked about creative ways to go about an internship search to complement applying directly to positions on LionSHARE. One idea discussed was to identify companies and organizations doing work you care about and to apply directly on their website or self-create an opportunity by finding someone in the organization to reach out to and pitching yourself as a valuable addition to the team. We also talked about using industry job boards and researching alumni to reach out to on LinkedIn for networking.

Finding Meaning at Work

We discussed the challenges of finding jobs that are both meaningful and make a livable wage and the choices and decisions that college students have to make around these topics. Everyone in the circle had a different definition of what meaningful work meant to them, and different plans for pursuing it – including going into meaningful work immediately, pursuing meaningful activities outside of work, and pursuing meaningful work in the future. In terms of making values-oriented decisions, we spoke of ranking your values or deciding on the areas most important to you and the minimum you would need to be happy in a job in order to help guide your satisfying choices.

To learn more about Lean In @ Columbia visit the organization’s website.