President King encourages women to "Lean In"
December 5th, 2013 | Betsy Elliott
Discussions and open dialogue about common experiences and controversial ideas – that is what Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) President Dottie King, Ph.D., hopes to initiate with “The Presidential Read.” As a new program this year, “The Presidential Read” is designed to promote continued learning and leadership by encouraging current students to engage in an educational opportunity outside of the typical classroom environment. Faculty, staff, alums and friends are invited to participate in the conversation as well. King chose “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg as the inaugural book for “The Presidential Read.” A #1 national best-seller, “Lean In” explores topics on women, work and the will to lead, making it very relevant to SMWC as a women’s college.
“I hope students gain a bigger awareness of the psychology of women and what is distinct about how we lead,” said King. “I also hope it becomes one of those things that we celebrate at The Woods, an inter-generational link. By having a dialogue across generations, we can strengthen the relationships we have.”
The title, “Lean In,” encourages women to lean in and not push back from the table when presented with professional opportunities. For “The Presidential Read,” King will write a blog post each week from now through Dec. 23, 2013, about specific chapters in the book. The blog will be the avenue for discussion about the challenges women face including inequality in the workplace, leadership, confidence and support – inspiring women to achieve their goals.
King hopes the interaction will be insightful and empowering, she anticipates the dialogue to be organic. “We may expose some insecurities and vulnerabilities, and that’s ok,” explains King. “However, these conversations are too important to avoid.”
The campus discussion of the book for students and local alums is scheduled for Jan. 23, 2014. Additionally, there will be a faculty/staff discussion on Feb. 6, an online discussion forum event on Feb. 11 and a national alumnae board discussion on Feb. 14. King recognizes several controversial topics in the book and she welcomes the opportunity to share different in perspectives a meaningful way.
“When I first heard about the book, the national news was picking up on the fact that the author was making an assertion that at least part of the reason that women aren’t rising as high in corporate America and in other leadership positions lies within themselves,” said King. “And there were feminist groups that didn’t like that. They wanted to blame it all on the culture and stereotypes and so on. I decided to read it because I thought ‘Wow, this is something that’s really relevant to what I do everyday.’”
King also selected the book because the themes are important for men to understand as well. In the book, Sandberg discusses the differences between men and women when it comes to leadership, and King recognizes the importance these issues have for both women and men.
“I have a husband and four sons, and I would love for them to read the book,” said King. “I hope to increase awareness with men and continue to find books like this one that men of The Woods would be interested in and find significant.”
The book was not only relevant to King as a president of a women’s college but also on a personal level. On more than one occasion, King found herself in the author’s experiences, scenarios and stories.
“The author points out that when it comes to leadership, women have a different confidence in their own abilities to lead. They wait to be selected. They wait for somebody to tap them on the shoulder and say ‘I think you can do this.’ Perhaps that’s cultural. Perhaps it’s confidence,” said King. “I thought about the times in my life that I thought about taking a step and how I waited for someone else to tell me I could do it. I think that’s really important for us to recognize about ourselves, and I think it’s important for men to recognize, especially men who are in positions to encourage female leadership.”
King invites everyone to lean in with her as the SMWC community takes an introspective look at leadership, careers, and the balance of work and family.