STORY

Leaning In to Women’s Empowerment

March 5, 2024

Lean In Circles are a concept first developed by Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Lean In. Aimed at women in business, the core model is designed to support women and girls in leadership through mentorship and skill building.

Counterpart’s Women’s Empowerment team has a large alumni network. The team looks for new ways to keep the alumni engaged and to better support them in their efforts. Often our alumni around the world ask how they can contribute to larger women’s empowerment initiatives and better advocate for women around the world.

Lida Hedayat, associate director of women’s empowerment, guides women participating in the economic advancement training program launched in Suriname in December 2023.

Eager to help build capacity around advocacy efforts among the alumni, the team recently launched a series of Lean In Circles. We brought together our diverse Global Women In Management network to introduce the concept and assess what topics the women were most interested in. Based on this conversation, the initial circles include:

  • Supporting Women Entrepreneurs
  • Gender and Social Inclusion from an Intersectionality Lens
  • Leadership through an Appreciative Inquiry Approach
  • Participatory Training Design through an Adult Learning Approach
  • Girls Education

Circle sizes range from 15 to 44 members each, with the Supporting Women Entrepreneur group garnering the most interest initially.

“I’m excited about the next evolution of GWIM networking and co-creation through Lean In Circles,” said Elise Young, Counterpart’s senior director for women’s empowerment. “These offer excellent spaces for talented women from different sectors and parts of the world to achieve new collaborative peer-to-peer learning and advocacy goals.”

Two Global Women In Management participants embrace during a training session in September 2023.

In January, the Lean In Circles each met for the first time and determined that they would come together on a monthly basis moving forward. Team members nominated a team lead—each role filled by GWIM alum to ensure local ownership with Counterpart staff filling a support role as needed. To manage expectations and set the groups up for actionable progress, the Women’s Empowerment team drafted membership guidelines and will provide training and other support as requested.

Each Circle is developing a plan in collaboration to identify what kind of mentorship and technical support they need. They will develop an advocacy action plan in support of their specific mission.

Explaining why the team chose to adapt the Lean In Circle model, Lida Hedayat, associate director of women’s empowerment said, “We’ve adapted the Lean In Circle model for these network groups because they foster inclusivity and participation, and empower each group to take ownership and leadership of their work outcomes.” The Lean In Circles are another example in Counterpart’s long history of building networks and empowering local voices.

 

The Global Women In Management program is funded by ExxonMobil. Since 2005, the program has provided 1,000 women from 77 countries with leadership, management, and technical skills through residential workshops, coaching, and network support. More than 300 GWIM alumni have received additional training and technical support in coaching, advocacy, mentorship, program design, and facilitation skills.

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