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90 leaders from 32 countries gathered in San Francisco for the Lean In Leaders conference in August 2019 – this was the 5th annual conference hosted by LeanIn.Org. I had the honour of representing our 700+ member Lean In Melbourne network.

My top 3 highlights are:

  • Meeting some remarkable leaders and hearing their stories. They are supporting high school girls in Bangalore, organising returnship programs for working mothers in Malaysia, launching tech start-ups in Tel Aviv, running activist bookstores in Athens, challenging gender stereotypes in Tokyo, training women in Zimbabwe to make their own sanitary pads and doing outreach in response to a suicide epidemic in Saltillo, Mexico.
  • Meeting Sheryl Sandberg in person, at her house in Menlo Park, where we celebrated her 50th birthday earlier with her. This amazing lady has provided us with a platform for the 44,000 circles across 172 countries we have today.
  • Hearing from several inspiring speakers on a variety of topics, a few of which include “Connected by Our Stories”, “#IAMREMARKABLE”, “Visual storytelling in the age of inclusion”, “Design Thinking for Powerful Women”, “Becoming Yourself”, “The Power of Community”, “Building Community through Technology & Social Media”.

I started my pre-conference activity with a tour around Lean In (and OptionB) HQ in Palo Alto. Here we get to see where the amazing teamwork, listen to how they come up with their goals, strategies to achieve gender equality and of course, their amazing recruitment process.

We then head to a self-organised dinner with all the leaders, the ice breaker “Describe a drink that represents you”. For me, it is bubble tea/ boba. It is a creative drink where it can be fruity, milky, tea-based, or alcoholic. Let me know in the comment below what is yours.

The next two days were filled with heaps of practical advice and inspiring stories. Below are my top 8 key  takeaways:

  1. The world is not connected by atoms, the world is connected by our stories – by Dr Bertice Berry

We have the power to change lives. The moment someone appreciates what you did for them, take it in and acknowledge yourself for the effort. The problem most of us have is the thought of “that is just my job”.

“Every woman should be loved at work as she is at home. Every woman should be respected at home as she is at work”

“The only way we can change the world is to first work on ourselves”

2. Self-promotion is a necessary skill, it’s not bragging if it is based on facts – by Julia Silva (Google)

#IAMREMARKABLE is a Google Initiative that strives to empower women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about the accomplishment in the workplace and beyond, thus breaking modesty norms and glass ceilings.

3. The importance of visual storytelling in the age of inclusion – by Emilie McKittrick (Getty Images)

4. Concept of Design Thinking – by Caricia Catalani and Jenny Gottstein (IDEO)

Human-centered design is an approach to innovation that starts by listening to people, and ends with solutions tailored to meet their needs.

5. Don’t Dwell, Excel – by Julie Lythcott-Haims

We need to be in charge of our emotions, and the importance of being ourselves.

6. The Power of Community  – by Lisa Fetterman (Nomiku)

Our community can be our largest support throughout our journey. Don’t underestimate the contribution of those around us. Our easiest “customers” are the ones we already have as customers.

“Don’t hide your idea, broadcast if far & wide. You will find your people that way, maybe your first customers”

7. Top tips on managing and engaging the community through technology – by Kelly Berg (Survey Monkey),  Sarah Cho(Eventbrite), Frances Coronel (Slack) and Laura Messa (Facebook) and Nikki Tucker (Lean In)

8. Focus on clear, simple and memorable message during your pitch – by Ana Paula Gonzalez (500 startups)

  • What is your story
  • Don’t sell a product/service, sell an opportunity
  • Make it personal/ relatable
  • Capture their imagination
  • Be fun/ shocking/ challenging / inspiring

After the conference, I managed to spend some time exploring the city of San Francisco with some of the leaders.

This is definitely one of the most rewarding conferences I have attended this year. If you would like to know more, feel free to drop me a  message.

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