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Facebook COO brings small groups to college campuses

“Men still run the world.”

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg began the live stream of “Lean In on Campus” with a heavy statement. Speaking to campuses across the United States. Sandberg expanded upon her book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” released earlier this year. A viewing event took place on PLNU campus Monday afternoon in the ARC for a small crowd of students — including Paige Woodward, Nolan Stephenson, and Jillian Heckman — one alumna, and five faculty members.

The mission of “Lean In” as described by Sandberg in the live stream, is to provide the tools and resources for women to achieve equality in the workplace, in leadership and in the home. Linda Beail, director of the Margaret Stevenson Center for Women’s Studies, said Sandberg is attempting to go beyond this mission by tapping into women’s potential.

“Part of what Sandberg wants to do is inspire women and forget about messages you’ve internalized about what you can’t do,” said Beail. “It’s okay to be passionate and follow your dreams.”

Beail said she appreciates that Sandberg’s status as COO of Facebook has opened up the way for more discussion.

“One thing I’m happy about is somebody with her amount of success and celebrity wants to have this conversation about gender and where women are in the 21st century and in the workplace,” Beail said.

During the short live stream, Sandberg focused on four steps for women to “lean into their ambitions”: have confidence, change the working-woman stereotype, start out aiming high, and support each other. A small group discussion between students and faculty followed the video, a created space for sharing ideas and thoughts about Sandberg’s ideas.

“It’s important as women to talk about because we do limit ourselves,” said Paige Woodward, a senior political science major. “But it’s not just about doing. There are biases at work against women.”

In the group discussion, students and faculty raised questions about the gap between Sandberg’s steps for women gaining confidence and actually achieving success in the workplace. Beail said this forces women to come together in the workplace for change.

“She’s saying to change the stereotype and have women step up and aim high, but when they do that, they’ll hit a wall of judgment or dislike,” Beail said. “They’re leaning in, but getting pushed back. I do think you need a sustained, ongoing political and social movement that calls attention to supporting each other.”

Sandberg’s organization launched “Lean In on Campus” at Howard University earlier this month. Across the nation, college campuses host small groups to support each other through the discussion process about preparing for the workplace using resources from the organization.

Reyna Sund, executive director of the Office of Strengths and Vocations (OSV), said that these groups could be successful if managed effectively.

“They could help if people challenge each other and take it seriously,” said Reyna Sund. “You would have live, fishbowl interactions to challenge each other to grow and give real, solid, valuable feedback.”

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