Fireside Chat with Lean In and Sheryl Sandberg

Leaning In in London

Over the past decade, the gender conversation has significantly evolved. We've witnessed an increased awareness, and to some degree, actions pushing for greater equality. Yet, women make up just 21% of the C-Suite, and it's an abysmal 4% for women of colour. 

This week, we were thrilled to host an intimate fireside chat with Sheryl Sandberg. COO of Facebook and founder of the Lean In Foundation, Sandberg is one of the earliest and most influential voices advocating for equal female representation in business. 

The event was hosted in partnership with at the new VMLY&R London office, and Claire Charruau, VMLY&R's EMEA Marketing Director, moderated a conversation with Sandberg about resilience, unconscious biases and what happens when women lean in and start driving change. Here are some of the most provocative points raised during the conversation.

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  • Lean In in London
Lean In Circles and the importance of peer groups

Large scale change must be driven from institutions and from the top, and that can take years of slow progress. What women can do now to activate and grow their careers is form supportive peer circles. Circles are small groups of women (professional, personal and other communities) who meet to build skills, network, and support one another. "Ambition is a complicated thing for women—more so than men," said Sandberg. Circles are a place where women can be unapologetically ambitious and find the help they need to reach their goals.

Find out how to start your circle here:

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"Ambition is a complicated thing for women—more so than men."
Sheryl Sandberg
Bias in the workplace

Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias is a challenge everyone faces in the workplace. "The small daily stuff, these biases, have an impact. For instance, if a manager systematically assigns you - the woman - to take notes and never assign the men. Or they systematically give credit to men for a woman's ideas. It's tough to do anything about that. In a perfect world, I would encourage you all to speak to your managers, but that's not always possible. Circles are also a space to give that feedback anonymously and filter that through the organization."

VMLY&R is piloting the 50 Ways to Fight Bias Program in the London office and across EMEA as a way to draw attention to insights on bias and what to do.

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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and unanticipated consequences 

Two in five women surveyed have experienced some form of sexual harassment throughout their career—from sexist jokes to unwanted touching and more. The MeToo Movement and heightened awareness of the issue have been an important step in the right direction but has also yielded unintended consequences.

One such example is senior managers expressing reluctance to take one-on-one meetings. "Have you ever promoted anyone you haven't spent one-on-one time with?" Sandberg asked the room. The obvious truth is, no. If women can't have a meeting, they can't get promoted. And studies have shown that men get more of informal time and sponsorship.

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The underrepresentation of women and why progress has stalled 

According to the latest Women in the Workplace study from McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, 1 in 5 C-suite executives is a woman — and only 1 in 25 C-suite executives is a woman of colour. When asked about the barriers to progress, Sandberg expanded that men are getting the critical first promotion. For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 79 women are promoted and hired. And that number drops to 60 for Black women. The inequality early in the talent pipeline carries long-term impact as those numbers of women continue to dwindle at subsequent levels. 

If you want to get involved visit:

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