March 6, 2023

Leaning In During Women’s History Month

In June 2022, 80 women-identifying employees signed up to take part in Cengage Group’s first Lean In Circles sponsored by our Women in Tech (WiT) Employee Resource Group (ERG). But what does it mean to lean in and what is a Lean In Circle?

In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month, we spoke with Chelsea G., Chitraa S., Alexa G., Amelia P. and Paige B., a few of the leaders of our Lean In Circle program, about their experience and what these recognitions means to them.

Lean In Comes to Cengage Group

Based on Cheryl Sandberg’s 2013 bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Lean In Circles are small groups that meet on a regular basis for peer mentorship, skill building and inspiration. When Chelsea G., a Project Manager in our Legal department, was looking for a way to get more involved with WiT, it was suggested that she think about organizing a Lean In program here. Chelsea says, “Lean In, which is a nonprofit organization, is designed to create spaces for women to get together and talk about their lives and careers. I attended one of their free information sessions and thought that it would be a great program for Cengage Group.”

Why Join a Lean In Circle

Chitraa S., Senior Manager, Software Engineering, participates in Lean In to help build her network with employees from other areas and backgrounds that she doesn’t usually get to work with. She wants to “grow personally and professionally by gaining new perspectives and listening to career advice and other inspirational stories shared by fellow Lean In Circle members.” 

Amelia P., Product Assistant, also joined to make connections. She says, “Working remotely can be isolating if we let it. So, since joining Cengage Group, I have pushed myself to connect with others. I’m thankful for the opportunities here to meet people while learning and growing.”

Paige B., Associate Digital Project Manager, agrees. “I was drawn to the community building and support in a digital workplace. I like the idea of being able to meet and connect with other women throughout the company.”


International Womens Day

Finding Your Lean In Circle

At Cengage Group, we began phase one by splitting the participants into groups based on where they are in their lives and careers. Participants were not limited though; many found themselves fitting into multiple areas. Options included:


“The underlying theme for our group was that we’re all trying to figure out the next step in our career,” says Alexa G., Software Engineer and one of the ‘Newbie’ circle leaders. “For me, the circle spoke to me because I’m still exploring and finding the things where I’d like to focus my professional life. Being newer to Cengage Group, it’s interesting to hear about different teams and how they all fit together.”

Alexa’s circle has been focusing on topics like:

  • How to ask for a promotion or raise
  • Discovering professional strengths and opportunities for growth
  • Goal setting

Contemplative Caregivers

“My group included women creating our career paths who are also moms,” says Amelia. “In addition to being a mom, I also chose this group because in the not-too-distant future, I will likely also be the caregiver for one of my aging parents.” She adds, “It’s important to create spaces where we can find harmony with our careers and our personal lives. This is why this particular focus spoke to me.”

“Our topics are always correlated to how we show up in our lives as working caregivers trying to find work/life balance,” Amelia continues. “When we first started meeting, we were focused on building trust within our circle.” Since then, Amelia’s circle has focused on several topics, including:  

  • Personal and career growth
  • Time management as working caregivers
  • Prioritizing mental health with guilt-free leisure time

Career Crafters

“Participants in these circles are in a stage of their career where they are no longer new in their role and are looking to grow to the next step, but are not sure how to get there or what resources they should be taking advantage of,” says Paige, who leads a Career Crafter circle. She adds, “Our circle has been a great and open environment for everyone to be able to show up and speak about their professional experiences.”

Paige’s circle typically focuses on topics like:

  • Hard conversations
  • Building confidence
  • Professional development opportunities

Career Peakers

“This type of circle provides a space for mid- to senior-level professionals who have gained a wealth of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields and are looking to explore and grow their careers even further,” says Chitraa, one of the circle leaders and an IT professional with over 20 years of experience.

Benefits of Lean In Program 

“Our circle enables members to reach out to each other for emotional support to achieve their personal and professional goals,” adds Chitraa. “Members gain insight from each other’s career journeys and discuss best practices and strategies for career growth. Members can gain a deeper understanding of their strengths and opportunities for growth through self-reflection in a non-judgmental and safe space.”

Chitraa’s circle has been focusing on topics like:

  • The importance of personal well-being including work/life balance, self-care and stress management
  • Strategies for career advancement, including negotiation skills, upskilling and how to promote achievements
  • How to be an effective communicator and leader

What It’s Like to Be a Lean In Leader

“Being a Lean In Circle leader allows me to sharpen my relationship building, facilitation and leadership skills,” says Chitraa. “It allows me to make a difference by building a supportive community of women who work towards their shared goals. Leading the group has been an incredibly fulfilling experience.”

Amelia adds, “I wanted to help create a safe space for a group of women to be their whole selves. After our meetings, I always leave feeling energized to continue to provide that space and network for the circle.”

“It’s inspiring watching everyone grow both professionally and personally,” says Paige. “Within the first six months, we had several members who were promoted, a member accepted into graduate school and another member who received a professional award. We’ve achieved so much growth in a short amount of time! We’ve been able to build a wonderful community where we can encourage and cheer each other on.”

Lean In Circles Inspire 

Cengage Group’s Culture Contributes to Lean In Circle Success

After the success of the initial rollout, Women in Technology is now starting phase two of Lean In and adding several new members. “Cengage Group’s open and transparent culture which values diversity, equity and inclusion has immensely helped this program to thrive,” says Chitraa. “The growing number of Lean In Circle members speaks to the positive impact these circles have on employees.” 

“We were not just voted one of the Best Places to Work by Glassdoor for nothing,” adds Amelia. “Cengage Group does a fantastic job creating a workplace where we can all feel seen, valued and respected. It’s because of this environment that employees feel empowered to lead ERG communities, like Women in Tech. Everything Cengage Group says it will do, it does, and that creates trust and empowerment.”

Cengage Group Culture 

Celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day

“To think that the Women’s Rights Movement began 1848, and yet women have always been part of life and history is mind-blowing,” says Amelia. “It’s important that we honor the women before us who fought for our rights in a society that we helped build. We need to continue the good fight for gender equity.” Paige adds, “It’s important to reflect on how far we’ve come.”

What to do during womens history month

Alexa adds, “It’s always inspiring to see how women in history broke through barriers! I love the movie Hidden Figures because it shows how women were the original catalysts for computer programming. Imagine if that narrative was widespread, how many more young women would feel like they can connect to careers in technology?”

On International Women’s Day, Chitraa plans to show support by wearing purple, which is the color associated with the day. She plans to help spread awareness on social media and would also like to recognize and appreciate the women in her life who make a difference. She feels that Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are important to recognize because “they help foster a sense of community by bringing people across the globe together to acknowledge challenges women face and celebrate the achievements of those who fought for our rights.” By recognizing these days, she hopes to raise awareness of “the ongoing struggles that women still face in the current world in terms of gender equality and in some cases mere day-to-day survival.” 

“Women’s History Month brings lots of opportunities to celebrate and uplift women,” says Alexa. She suggests shopping women-owned businesses. “Promoting a woman’s small business can have such a cascading effect on her sales and exposure.”

You could also take the time to recognize someone you work with. “Getting positive feedback from a woman you admire can chip away at self-doubt and make you feel empowered.” She adds, “It isn’t always the grandest gestures that make an impact, sometimes small actions can make a big difference too.”

How to Celebrate International Womens Day 

“For me, International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month provide an opportunity to take stock of where we are in our ultimate goal of gender equity in society,” says Chelsea. “There are many reasons to be discouraged, but I think it’s important to celebrate how far we have come. In the last year, we saw the first Black woman elevated to the Supreme Court in Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first lesbian governor in Maura Healey in my current home state of Massachusetts and the 50th year anniversary of Title IX, which has shaped how women engage in sports and education today. So, I’ll celebrate by thinking about the women who have created a better world for me to grow up in and plan for how I can enable the change I want to see in the years to come.”

Learn More

If you’re interested in knowing more about what it’s like to work at Cengage Group, read more Employee Experiences and visit our Careers page to view open positions.