Last November, I attended the Women in Design & Construction Conference. Not only were the talks and breakout sessions interesting and relevant, but the camaraderie and energy I experienced from being around dynamic, smart and talented women is something I won’t soon forget.
One of the talks that I really enjoyed was “Lessons from Starting a Lean-In Circle in AEC” from Tasha Haselden, a construction management associate from Haselden Construction. Ever since reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” I’ve thought about the glass industry and how leaning in can help recruit and retain the most talented women in our industry. After listening to Tasha’s experience with starting a lean-in circle at her company, I wonder if it’s time that we start one in our industry. After all, organizations like the American Institute of Architects New York chapter have a Women in Architecture Committee that aims to develop and promote women leaders—why not have the same for our own industry?
In searching for answers, I did some research on how other industries started lean-in circles or similar women’s networking groups. It was interesting to read about not just the success stories, but also the backlash. An article on B2Bmarketing.com notes, “women’s networking groups are not without their controversy. Some in the industry accuse them of segregating gender and praising women for their gender rather than skill.” In a way, I can see why someone might hold this sentiment. Everyone should be evaluated by their skills and capabilities, not by their gender. We should be empowering everyone to reach their full potential, not just women.
However, there are issues such as equal pay, glass ceilings, finding work/life balance, harassment, etc. that impact women more than men in the workplace. If nothing else, having a lean-in circle or women’s networking group can provide a place for women to talk freely about these issues without fear of judgement, and offer an environment to support each other.
In Tasha’s presentation and in the articles that I’ve read, it seems you need at least three things to ensure a lean-in circle’s success: 1) have a clear purpose or mission; 2) get buy-in and support from the top; and 3) find women to join and engage with the group.
While I do believe that a lot of good can come from this, I won’t pretend to have all the answers. Perhaps this blog is my first step to No. 3, finding women within our industry who believe in forming this group like I do. If you are interested in connecting, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe together we can get to No. 1 (purpose) and No. 2 (buy-in), and even surprise ourselves in the process.
Diana San Diego is vice president of marketing for Safti First. Contact her at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.