I learned how to lean in from my father and other male role models who have steered me in the right direction again and again.
My dad taught me how to get out of my skin to achieve my goals. You can do whatever you want, he told me. He helped me and my two sisters break away from cultural and conventional barriers by emphasizing the importance of education every step of the way. With that quiet confidence, I succeeded in different jobs, and while my sisters have taken a break to raise their families, I did the exact opposite.
After more than a decade of corporate and nonprofit leadership, I mustered the courage to enroll in a Master's program in public policy. My father's supportive voice echoed in my head, championing my choice. I made a difficult choice putting my personal and professional life at risk, but on the flip side, I knew without taking the walk into the unknown, the path that called out to me, I would not be satisfied. I would not be happy. I wouldn't let myself hesitate or give in to the fear.
Armed with that courage, I quit my job where I had high visibility, earned spot bonuses and had great male champions setting me up for success.
Unfortunately over my career, the people who did not allow me to lean in when I should have or wanted to were always women. Two female bosses held me back in two different organizations. They did not believe I had the right skills and did not cheer my successes. These painful realizations have led me to help other women find their voices and marshal their causes. While still stumbling through my post-Master's transition, I work with three nonprofits that focus on women's economic empowerment, women's leadership development and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Though I am traversing the waters of transition, these choices have given me a great deal of contentment and flexibility. Moreover, they have given me a strength and voice hitherto unknown to me.