Lean In group comes to U campus

U student hopes to create a space for women to discuss workplace issues.

Jessica Hart

This fall, a new leadership club hopes to plant its roots at the University of Minnesota.

Sophomore nutrition major Josephine Jones founded a group called “Gophers Lean In,” meant to help create a space for women to discuss workplace issues and how to tackle them. 

Jones said the group’s discussion topics will be based on the themes in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Similar initiatives have emerged at college campuses across the country, including a group at University of Wisconsin-Madison, which Jones is collaborating with as she constructs Gophers Lean In.  

“In all reality, I feel like it’s important to understand that there is a difference in the workplace between men and women, and ignoring that factor is not going to get us anywhere,” Jones said. 

Since the announcement of the group earlier this month, about 55 members have signed up, and Jones said she has received about 20 messages from women interested in assuming an executive position.

Jones said she was inspired to start Gophers Lean In after talking with her cousin, Anna Roesner, vice president of leadership and development for the Lean In circle at UW-Madison.

“I talked to Josie all about it because it’s something that I’m super passionate about, and Josie is [exactly] what Lean In stands for as well. … She’s a very hard-working woman with big career goals and big ambitions, and so that’s why I think she is like the perfect candidate to bring Lean In to the University of Minnesota,” Roesner said.

One of Jones’s goals for the group is to have every member read Sandberg’s book, which she said she found to be inspiring. 

“Reading the book … [is] really eye-opening. … I’ve never read anything on independence in the workplace … and how women are becoming stronger in the workplace and how it’s affecting society … and I find it just fascinating,” Jones said.

Roesner said she thought the book was especially helpful for setting goals. 

“It showed me and inspired me every time I picked up the book to make the most of every day and make goals and to not let anything hold me back from reaching the goals, and basically it keeps me really motivated,” Roesner said.

By creating the group, Jones said she hopes she and her members will build connections and foster a community.

“I actually started a club at my high school, and after doing that I saw the impact it can make on bringing communities together,” Jones said. 

On average, 100 to 150 new clubs are registered at the University every year. Currently, there are about 1,000 student organizations on campus, said Denny Olsen, Student Unions and Activities senior associate director. 

The UW-Madison Lean In group was founded in 2013 and currently has five leadership team members and about 60 members. 

In the future, Roesner said that she and Jones hope to bring their Lean In circles together for a weekend trip.

“Even though we’re rivals on the football field … Lean In is all about women supporting other women and helping each other reach their goals,” Roesner said.