Since its inception 3 years ago, the lean in movement, launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has drawn women from across the globe, counting today 28000 circles in 141 countries and growing, the quick spread of the initiative is a clear confirmation that wherever they come from, women share the will to create safe spaces for others where peer support, ongoing inspiration and mentoring are the common values.


Lean in circles are individual initiatives, led mainly by women who are really keen in challenging the stereotypes about females and helping women break that chain for themselves and future generations for a better prospect.


Pioneering this initiative in Dubai and the GCC region, Sustain Leadership consultancy launched the first lean in chapter Lean in Arabia with their first circle: Lean in without falling over, in October 2014, with the aim to extend the knowledge they offer to organizations in the field of women leadership development, diversity and inclusion and gender intelligence, to their community.


Lean in without falling over, which is an inclusive circle of women from all nationalities, age groups, and walks of life, has grown from 8 members in the first gathering to exceed 200 in few months.

The monthly gatherings are usually themed around topics previously, suggested by members, which relate to common challenges faced by women, be it on professional or personal levels, all members of the circle expressed that they could see the added value of being part of this space, some expressed that they gained more confidence in themselves, to step up at the work place, some said that learned skills to dare more and speak up whether to defend their rights, negotiate a better salary, or defy societal stereotypes; everyone appreciated the fact they felt safe in this environment, where they are listened to with no judgment.


“The experience is nurturing and energizing, I look forward to the monthly gathering, where I know I will have an army of mentors who are willing to share their knowledge, hear my voice, and give me genuine advice, the variety of perspectives created every time is truly priceless, I managed to speak up at the work place and earned a promotion and decided to go for my MBA, all within months from joining the circle”, says the youngest member and one of the first joiners, of the Dubai based circle.


Lean in regional lead conference:

Connection, Inspiration and Global Impact


On 12th August, Sustain leadership founders Amel Murphy & Hanane Benkhallouk took part of the regional LeanIn Leads gathering that was attended by over 50 global change makers and influencers of women in society, corporate world and diverse communities. From China, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Italy, France, Canada and different states from the east and west coast in the US, all came to represent voices of diverse groups of women, be it the military, minorities, C-suite, corporate professionals, mothers, they all gathered for two days and created a space for celebration of achievements, connection and exploration on how to extend and accelerate impact on women’s lives for generations to come.


One of the highlights of this conference was the session led by Joanna Barsh, the author of Centered Leadership around the importance of trust amongst circle members and strategies to develop trustworthy relationships & partnerships.


The inspiration created by the first day small circles meetings, side discussions and connection games helped deepen the connection among participants, and the desire for a larger and bigger action for communities and chapters.


The Power of Peer Support:


The second day hosted by the Cayman institute for gender research at Standford University was a continuous inspiration and learning to really understand the meaning of peer support and the importance of shared value and guiding principles in order to grow the circles and enhance their impacts.


The wisdom gained from a very special guest:

Sustain Leadership founders invited a very special companion to this inspiring journey, their mascot, who they thought represented the traits and unique virtues of the women from the region they come from and where their circle is based, the stuffed tiny camel, did not go unnoticed among the participants, and was the inspiration behind the highlighted learning that the only two participants from the Middle east region took away,

·      Uniqueness: Camels are unique in their way of being as a creature, their hump might look a flaw but it is the source of resourcefulness, if we shift the way we look at our flaws like a dent of uniqueness, our lives and our contributions will be greater. Honoring the Gift

·      No one is on same journey: Camels in their quest to survive the harsh living conditions of the desert, embark in a journey for search of water.  They have a goal which is getting to the source of water, they have some direction (guiding campus) however not a straightforward journey. Like each one of us, is going through her own journey, we may have the same aim or end, however the trajectory is different and it differs based on our experiences, beliefs, context, ages and stages etc…

·      Resilience: it’s not a matter of endurance but more of a matter of balance, elasticity, agility and flexibility.  The journey to change doesn’t have to be a journey of life and death. It should be more about a rebirth, it’s knowing when you need to push and when you need to let go. It’s not about being at war but being in flow.

·      Everything is temporary: To every difficult journey there is an end, nothing is permanent, joy isn’t permanent, sadness isn’t permanent and hardship isn’t permanent, so why give the emotions/motions a bigger portion than what they need. Let’s learn to neutralize feelings for just what they are and not judging them. Camels never judge the harshness of the weather, or living conditions as it knows that there is always water and they will find it.


Lean in has definitely triggered a global movement that connected small pods of individuals who are making a difference, one circle at a time, enhancing impact at a large scale, on a topic that has never seized to be of high importance on every one’s agenda.


To continue this momentum and take it to the next level, the Dubai circle and its founders came back with high levels of energy and determination, to engage multiple stakeholders, from the private and public sector, with a clear value proposition that will help not only address the gender balance issues, but also bring leadership variety for even greater transformations for generations to come.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *