Sheryl Sandberg Teams Up With The NBA For ‘Lean In Together’ Equality Campaign


The “Lean In” movement is in full swing! Just when you thought Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s initiative was only about getting women in the workforce to go after leadership positions and negotiate better pay, she pulls out a party trick: a new campaign where men are at the center.

The Ban Bossy campaign from 2014 was all about engaging girls from a young age to embrace leadership skills and see them as a positive, not something to be dismissed. With the influx of messaging in the femisphere (we totally just made up that word and we think it works!) about engaging men in the conversation, thanks in large part to UN Women’s He For She gender equality campaign fronted by actress Emma Watson, there seems to be a subtle shift showing society how feminism is relevant because it can impact all of us.

Now Sheryl’s Lean In organization wants to get in on the action and lend their influence to this movement. They have launched the ‘Lean In Together’ campaign which is aimed at getting men, fathers, husbands and male colleagues on board with the idea that diversity helps them just as much as is does women.

“Children with involved fathers are happier, healthier, and more successful. Couples that share responsibilities have stronger marriages. Diverse teams and companies produce better results. Men, show the world you’re in for equality. Women, celebrate men leaning in,” says the campaign landing page.

In a bid to reach more men, Lean In has teamed up with the NBA and sports cable network ESPN in order to tap into their predominantly male audience (75% according to Business Insider). It is a VERY smart move given that some of the major sports leagues in America today have been dogged with news reports about sexual assault, domestic violence and other issues that unfortunately too often get swept under the rug in favor of praising the superstars on the field and on the court.

Men should support their wives and daughters at home and their female colleagues in the workplace, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s great for men,” said Sheryl to Yahoo news.


Since March 5 the NBA and ESPN have been running PSAs about gender equality.

Ads showing Stephen Curry talking about equality, showing LeBron James as an all-star dad? It’s one way to take the conversation from where it is and where it’s been, which is the forums where women are, to the forums where men are as well,” added Sheryl. Yep, they’ve got some all-star names on board to show how series this gender equality thing really is.

When asked whether she is gearing these campaigns to eliminate gender inequality from all spheres of society, Sheryl says the answer lies in engaging people from all parts of society, especially men.

Men should want this for themselves. There is data out there that if women entered the workforce in the same percentages as men, our GDP would grow by 5 percent. That’s good for everyone, women and men. There’s also data that shows that men who work well with women outperform their peers, whether they are the most entry-level position all the way up to the CEO. That’s good for women and men. In the home, men who do 50 percent of the chores have stronger marriages, stronger relationships, more sex. That is certainly good for everyone.”

Yahoo notes that it seems unfair that the campaign appears to pander to men’s needs, rather than focusing on what is right.

In the past 11 years, the wage gap only closed by one penny, and that was only for white women. Women have stayed at 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEO jobs for years and years. Of course equality is “right” and “fair,” and we will continue saying that, but if we can also teach men that this is good for them and that moves the needle, I’m for it.”

And just to be clear, this campaign is not saying men need to help women to get ahead, it is about standing side by side and understanding how they can both benefit from being empowered and empowering each other. For women it may be about greater equity in the workforce, but for men is it more equality at home with parental leave, another thing she is fighting for.

I don’t think we are saying that men have to help women. I think it’s that we have to support each other. For most of history we have not supported women as leaders, true, but we also haven’t supported men as caregivers. It’s time we redefine the opportunities for women and, while doing that, we also redefine the opportunities for men. Women get discriminated against in the office, men get discriminated against when it comes to care. The simple reality is, until men do more in the home, women won’t be able to do more in the office.

Sheryl believes both institutional barriers as well as personal internal struggles (not asking for a raise, self-doubt etc) are what is inhibiting equality around the world, and she brings up Norway as an example. Keep in mind Norway has consistently been ranked as one of the top 5 gender equal countries in the world according to the World Economic Forum over the past few years.

It has the best policies in the world — maternity leave, paternity leave, 40 percent women on board quotas, 40 percent women in Parliament. And still, less than 4 percent of Norway’s big companies are run by women. All the institutional barriers are gone, and that’s what you are left with. You have to change the cultural barriers and the acceptance of women as leaders. You also have to change the institutional barriers. And those all can change by taking this to men.

“Warren Buffett has famously said, one of the reasons he did so well, because he was only competing with half the population,” she told ABC News in another interview. She also pointed out how Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba from China which went public in 2014 and became the largest tech IPO of all time claims his secret to success is the amount of women he employs. They make up a total of 47% of all jobs, and 33% of senior positions. It is yet another reminder that companies with more women present outperform those that don’t.

The PSA below features some prominent NBA and WNBA players who talk about the influence of men in their lives as women.

Elena Delle Donne, who plays for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, added: “My brother would always pick me above of his friends to be on his basketball teams.”

Sue Bird of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm affirmed that “it’s moments like that that you carry with you forever.”

Along with the NBA PSA is another video (shown above) made in conjunction with MAKERS Women featuring the likes of Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Condoleeza Rice and more who talk about how the men in their lives, their husbands and fathers, made such a difference when they encouraged them to be all they could be.

So far on the website you can see images shared using the #leanintogether hashtag from celebrities such as Serena Williams and Hugh Jackman, as well as everyday men and women who support the message that when we all lean in together, we all benefit.




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