AUIS Graduate Leans In | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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AUIS Graduate Leans In

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 17:45

Student blog by Banu Ali


I was at the National Model United Nations conference in New York last year when I heard that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, wrote a book called “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” I went to a bookstore immediately to buy it. Initially, I feared that her book wouldn’t help me because I am from a different world. However, I realized after reading it that I have been through many similar situations. For example, like Sheryl, know what it feels like to be the only woman in the office. I also know what it is like to be labeled "bossy" when I try to lead.

After reading “Lean In,” I became a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg. I admired how successful and hard working she is. A few months later, I started working at a non-profit organization, the Hiwa Foundation. One of the major projects at the Hiwa Foundation is translating books into Kurdish. After few months working there, I suggested we translate "Lean In." They loved the idea once they learned how powerful the book’s message is. With the support of the Hiwa Foundation and the Lean In Foundation, we got approval to translate the book.

Distributing “Lean In” in Kurdish will help the local region to cast off the idea that women must be at home raising children while men work. With collaboration and looking at your wife or husband as a dedicated co-parent, we can build better families and societies. We can have more women sit at the table, as well as more women going back to school or to work with encouragement from their families and society.  My hope is to see more women as leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians and business owners.

In addition to translating “Lean In” into Kurdish, the Lean In Foundation is supporting my efforts to start a Lean In circle at AUIS. What is a Lean In circle? It is a group of eight to twelve peers who meet monthly to explore professional topics and exchange personal experiences in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust.  Circles can be for both men and women. I believe AUIS can benefit from Lean In circles, which cover topics such as: how to know your strengths, how to communicate with confidence, how to negotiate, how to allow yourself to be brilliant. 

I loaned my copy of “Lean In” to a few of my friends, and I was pleased to hear that they, too, were inspired by Sheryl’s ideas. Azheen Ihsan Fuad, an international studies major at AUIS, said, “when I first heard about 'Lean In,' I didn't think that it was going to be relevant to me because it was coming from a woman within the corporate world. I was, however, wrong in every possible way.Reading through the pages of ‘Lean In,’ especially when Sheryl wrote about of how she would always worry that she got a low grade on her exams and how her brother would think the opposite. In the end, they'd both get high grades. This wasn’t because her brother was being over-confident, but because of the low confidence she had. That was something that stayed with me, because when it comes down to expressing my opinions or 'keeping my hands up' within discussions duringclass, I always felt like my ideas were wrong. Or I would sometimes whisper the answers/opinions to myself. Yet at the same exact time, another person would word out exactly what I was thinking, leaving me more down than before. As an international relations student, it's important for us to express our opinions and keep our hands up, and what Sheryl was saying in her book, was the right push for me to actually keep my hands up and make sure what I was thinking was heard.”

I encourage students to read the book and come join the circles. We are doing this to encourage you to lead. We hope to see as many men as possible in the circles, too.