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Laura Wellington Headshot

Men Who 'Leaned On' So That Women Might 'Lean In'

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I really love the fact that society is placing so much focus and emphasis on mentoring women to grab at life and assume positions long denied them. No doubt, the enormous strength female leaders and role models are injecting into this movement is doing a great deal of good. Whether we are Leaning In ourselves, burying our noses in recent literary hits as The Confidence Code, or reviewing the names of the 50 Most Powerful Women In New York as deemed by The New York Daily News recently, the emergence of women in the workplace at levels new to us continues to be demonstrated.

That said, I believe, it is very important that the growth we, women, are experiencing serves as a vital reminder of the intelligence and muscle that was put forth on our behalf by men who, ultimately, opened the first doors to us and continue to do so. Without these male visionaries leaning on the face of convention, bypassing stereotypes, and trekking down roads others dare not travel, we women would not be following in their footsteps or fashioning our own today. That's reality and it is a truth that seems to get lost a great deal despite the fact that it can make us better leaders as we, too, begin to heartily trek and take other women with us.

Who knows whether or not Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg or Hillary Clinton would be where they are today without the boosts given by Dennis Swanson, Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill Clinton on their own way to the top. I'm sure we would all like to believe that fate would have cast equal or better hands for these women despite Dennis, Mark, or Bill's presence in their lives. Realistically, though, the odds are slim and purely for the reasons that kept like women from assuming such prestigious positions and formidable opportunities in the past -- OLD SCHOOL wouldn't have it.

It would take a new breed of thinkers underscored by an unstoppable desire to "win" to extinguish convention and replace it with WOMAN. Mind you, nowhere in that sentence do I infer a belief that these men took this approach because they were hell bent on helping women rise to the top. I'd rather think that their prime motivating factors were competition, money and survival -- all of which equal success. It is not to say that lifting women up through the ranks along the way wasn't a secondary advantage none of these men thought about, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that primary motivations were socially driven. And then let us learn from such deliberateness as - in order for us to continue to Lean In effectively and expand the path further for more women - we need to (not just) Lean In but Stay In and that takes the same courage, tenacity, intelligence, aggressiveness, and effective leadership exhibited by the men who opened those initial doors to us.

Suffice-it-to-say, recognizing and thanking the men that truly brought us to this day does not diminish our own value, rights to passage, or well-earned positions. It makes us worthy contenders, insightful partners, and gracious leaders.

It epitomizes how one good decision can lead to a multitude of others. So in that spirit, I want to "Thank You" gentlemen for Leaning On convention, blowing open those doors, and inviting women inside. We might have fought to be recognized but without you possessing the vision, fortitude, and good sense to see us, the leaning we would currently be doing would look, undoubtedly, different than that which we are steadily growing accustomed to.