The Ultimate “Lean In”: Starting Your Own Company


Sheryl Sandberg brings a much-needed voice to the table on female leadership. She speaks from the vantage point of a strong executive who has made her way to the top. Her concept of leaning in and not leaving before you leave is important, but all this comes from an employee’s view.

About four years ago, I co-founded a networking group of 120 female CEOs and founders of technology and life sciences companies called the SheEOs.

Every day, these SheEOs perform the ultimate “Lean In.” Many of us are the breadwinners of our families. We work hard to make payroll for our many employees. We understand with every fiber that those employees come with families that rely on us. We are stewards of capital for hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. Do we expect medals and trophies for this act of leaning in?

No, but we would appreciate a slight “tilt in” from the other side. It would be great if Jules Pieri, CEO of Daily Grommet, weren’t asked if she runs her company as a side business from home. Why were half of the top female CEOs I know nudged to use the services of wardrobe consultants so that they “clean up more nicely”? And I would have been thrilled if my pregnancy hadn’t been deemed one investor’s “grand social experiment.”

But because these kinds of obstacles are a daily part of our lives as entrepreneurs, we don’t spend our time complaining. We just lean in further. That means approaching the biases headfirst like a soccer player that scores a goal with a header.

For me, that meant proactively coming up with a five-step plan for my board on how to be back in the office six weeks after delivering my baby. It meant targeting strategic investors because they are more likely to invest in a working product than in alpha-male world domination plans.

It also means that I use my gender to get speaking slots or seats next to the highest-ranking male at a dinner, show baby pictures to get press coverage, etc. As an entrepreneur, I’m clearly not too proud to do that. Because leaning in means bringing everything to the table that I’ve got.

Bettina Hein is the founder and CEO of Pixability, a software company focused on YouTube marketing. She previously co-founded speech software firm SVOX and the SheEOs, a networking group for women CEOs and founders. Follow @bettinahein

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