By Debbie Gregory.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, spoke to a crowd of nearly 3,000 cadets at the Air Force Academy, as the Department of Defense works to recruit more women.
The “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” author told the cadets that society tells women they are less competent and capable, and that women and minorities face barriers white men don’t face.” She added that the military is one of “the worst” organizations for bias.
Sandberg had participated in a “Lean In Circle” with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and female military servicewomen in September. Carter said that the circles empowered women, and gave men a way to lean in to support their female colleagues, all the while improving themselves.
Detractors have said that Sandberg’s Lean In pitch shatters traditional gender roles driven by biology and that her perspective is one borne of privilege, as a wealthy technology entrepreneur.
She told the mostly male crowd that she was inspired by their courage, strength and dedication, and that she had special admiration for the women who join the Air Force and “fight for equality with every single step you take.”
The Air Force Academy has pledged to encourage “Lean In Circles” where small group of cadets will focus on her vision of total equality through discussion. Cadets have started six Lean In Circles, and many more are expected following Sandberg’s lecture.
“Lean In is something that can energize both genders,” said Col. Carrie Bausano, who heads climate and culture programs for the academy’s cadets.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has called for an officer corps that’s one-third female. Part of that effort includes leaning on Sandberg’s Lean In teachings.
Sandberg said the academy’s women will lead the charge toward bringing her brand of equality across the nation.