I just spent a few days in Houston at the Grace Hopper Conference. The Grace hopper event is for women in technology come together to share ideas, create a sense of community, and bond. It is also a big recruiting event for tech companies as many female computer science major students attend. It was named in honor of Grace Hopper who was a computer programmer and a Rear Admiral in the US Navy.

This was my first Grace Hopper Conference and it was an amazing experience. I will write a few blogs based on various inspiring speakers but today I want to focus on the highlight of the conference for me. Thursday afternoon keynote speaker was Sheryl Sandburg. Sheryl is the COO of Facebook, the author of the book LEANIN and by far one of the most influential forces that helped me ignite my personal passion to see women become their professional best. For me, seeing Sheryl speak was like going to a rock concert. I went early tried to get the best seat and I could not wait to hear what she had to say. There were 12,000 women in the room to listen. There were people lined against the walls, sitting on the floors, you could fill the energy in the room. Sheryl did not disappoint and she focused on three key takeaways I want to share with you today.

  1. Ambition: What would you do if you were not afraid? The time is now and what are you going to do to change. Change yourself, focus on the real problems and make an impact. I had some personal reflection and thought it I were not afraid; I would continue what I started with this blog. I would write open and honestly about my feelings, the hardships I face but more importantly help others learn with me. It is a tough question and I really think everyone should sit and internalize it and ask yourself that question.
  2. Community: We need each other and LeanIN circles are a framework to help us all get started. Sheryl talked about how women in small community groups such as a LeanIN circle do significantly better than those without the groups. Why? In the groups, they hold each other accountable, they feel safe sharing their fears and their goals and then encourage one another to dream big. At the end of every meeting, they make a commitment to each other as to what they will accomplish before the next meeting. I am committing today to starting a LeanIN circle.
  3. Stay technical and stay the course. Many of the stats that I saw at the event, show women and men starting off close or near parity in pay. There is a clear gap as time goes on both in the pay gap as well as the number of women in the C suite. I personally believe it is because women are having babies and making tough choices. Many women want to spend more time with their children and they feel left behind at work or not up to par to enter at the same level of dedication that they had prior to having a child. Sheryl called out great companies like Microsoft who have recently expanded their maternity benefits. Sheryl noted that many technical jobs give you the flexibility you need to have a good work life balance and therefore encourage all technical women to stay in the field.

There was one other thing she said that was very inspiring and heartfelt. She recently lost her husband who died suddenly. It was only 6 months since he passed, she said in her darkest moments she needed help to move forward. She talked about how each night she wrote a list of three things she did really well that day. In the early days, she stated the highlight of her list would be making a cup of tea but she saw progress as days went on. It helped her feel accomplished, more confident and she thought actually helped her to sleep better each night.

There you have it in a nutshell so many things you could get started with, so many good ideas but today I asked you just to do one and start today. #LEANIN

Buzz-Worthy Lesson: Ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid? If you are brave and bold, write it in the comments. Write down three things you did well each day before you go to bed.