Does anybody remember those big apple-green lapel pins, “I am a simple, Bible-believing Christian feminist?” I still have mine in my jewelry drawer, a seventies souvenir. If I wore it today on my Christian college campus, I suspect my fellow academics would look askance at such a retrograde claim, labeling “feminist” as yesterday’s word, a matter of beating a dead horse. If I wore it to my Episcopal church, my fellow congregants would be surprised, because to them, “Bible-believing” means anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-marriage equality. In her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg tells of being evasive in her early career when asked if she was a feminist. Today, as COO of Facebook and a millionaire many times over, she embraces the word. As do I.
The book Lean In is focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions. It aspires to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what women can do. “Leaning in” means making the best choices women can, and accepting those choices. It is an initiative that starts a conversation about empowering women to stand up for what they need and want so that women are better able to believe in themselves and in their talents. “Lean In” is, of course, the phrase Sanford created to encapsulate the empowerment of women as leaders in her book of the same name. The book takes a good, if uncomfortable, look at how women may have internalized the negative stereotypes of working women, dialing down ambitions in the face of the pressures of running a household. In fairness, the book is laced with examples of men who have made a conscious effort to make their workplaces and marriages more equal.
“Lean In” now has become a global organization committed to offering women ongoing inspiration and support. Via the internet and social media, more than 7,000 “Lean In Circles” have sprung up all over the country, and in 50 foreign countries. Sandberg maintains that women are more creative, more confident and accomplish more in groups—that’s the power of Circles as they meet regularly to learn and share together. The Circles website has many resources to empower women, including tabs to “News and Inspiration,” “Education,” “Start a Circle,” and “Lean In Stories.”
Christian women add a very central and possibly unconsidered concern to the subject of gender parity in the workplace: the theological perspective. Christian women in Circles understand that Biblical issues are of little interest in secular workplace leadership discussions, but they may be of great interest to believers. How about local working Christian women forming a Lean In Circle that would articulate this issue along with the gender aspects of leadership common to all women? I’d join!