“I can’t believe you think it’s such a big deal,” Zach said as I enthusiastically commended him on his overt support of Lean In, and his passion for equality. My group of girlfriends often discusses Lean In and its impact on both the NYU campus and the world at large. But I hadn’t heard such a positive (and outspoken!) perspective yet from a college-age male, until I met Zach.
For a bit of background...My name is Diana Zarowin and I graduated in May from NYU’s Stern School of Business. The Undergraduate Stern Women in Business club, of which I served as President this past school year, has been actively promoting Lean In on campus. We had over 150 attendees at this year's Lean In on Campus Livestream and we host Lean In Circles regularly as they continue to be a real success in furthering important conversations on our campus. In addition to promoting Lean In in an educational context, I often find myself engaging in conversation (or Leaning In, as we say) with my peers.
Recently, I was speaking about Lean In with a group of my friends, both men and women, when Zach chimed in with a literal interpretation of the words "Lean In." He’ll tell you more about it.
Zach: My name is Zach Schwarzbaum and I am a rising junior at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. I was just elected to my second year as President of Hillel at NYU, the umbrella organization for Jewish student life here on campus. I work alongside ambitious women every day, like Diana. The first time I heard her say "Lean In," I had a somewhat literal interpretation.
Almost 10 years ago, I watched Hitch, a romantic comedy that tells the story of a dating coach, played by Will Smith, who helps a client, played by Kevin James, win over the woman of his dreams. There is one particular scene from the movie that popped into my head when I was discussing Lean In with Diana and our other friends. This scene explains the technique behind a first kiss. Smith instructs his male client to lean in 90% of the way and let the woman go the other 10%. After hearing the words Lean In in our conversation, I immediately presumed my peers were referring to the act of leaning in for a kiss. Lean In, I assumed, was telling women to make the first move. I laughed to myself at the scene’s underlying implications, since I know women can Lean In 90%, 100%, or whatever percent they choose.
Diana thought this was wildly original and a great perspective on those words, especially coming from a young adult male. To me, there are no rules for who should make the first move — in business or in romance. Men shouldn’t feel intimidated by an ambitious female in the boardroom or the bedroom. Women shouldn’t feel like there’s a designated “percent” for them to lean in. People should be comfortable doing whatever feels right to them, and we should support anyone, male or female, who leans in — 100% of the time.
Back to me, Diana…Zach’s attitudes about women and leadership are somewhat surprising to me —in a good way, of course! But truthfully, they shouldn’t be. If women and men can begin to really work together to promote mutual respect and collaboration, and if we can encourage more women (and men!) to lean in socially and professionally, our society’s potential will know no bounds.
So make the first move, whatever that means to you, and Lean In!