We're Already Leaning In

4 years ago

The lower level of the Beacon Hotel in Washington, DC, thrums with enthusiasm.

At table after table, everyone from CEOs and academics to developers and policy wonks swap stories of surviving sequestration, jockeying for promotions, and the art of snagging that corner office. With every shared anecdote comes another chance to network; each handshake ideally ends with an exchange of business cards and a promise to reconnect later.

But despite the packed conference room—and agenda—there’s one thing noticeably absent from today’s event.

Y chromosomes.

The reason? Shannon Morgan and I are at the “Remarkable Women: Leadership Strategies for 2013” conference hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association (I’m an alum, but being one isn’t required; anyone can attend).

For several hours, we listen to speakers share stories of remarkable projects (if you’ve never heard of Jhpiego, Hopkins’ global-wellness initiative, look it up) and remarkable accomplishments.

During various breakout sessions, we’re encouraged to set concrete long-term goals (it’s tougher than you think), hone our people-leading skills, and turn our good ideas into gold.

We’re also reminded to breathe, which we often forget to do. That’s because all the women here today—and all the women not here today—have been “leaning in” and making the world go ‘round since there’s been a world. So we understand the particular weight of simultaneously managing a career, furthering our education, keeping a home, and raising children.

Most days, oxygen doesn’t even make the list. Which is why it’s so helpful that today concludes with an exercise in deep breathing and visualization led by a certified yoga instructor—and successful entrepreneur—in the main conference room. Together, 100+ women inhale, exhale, and learn to accept that self-care isn’t an indulgence. It’s a necessity.

And it makes for better leaders.  

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