This past summer I went to a Kappa Delta Delta Eta reunion. It was the first reunion of any kind I'd attended. In fact, I wrote a blog post about the experience and that blog post was shared with the editor of the sorority magazine by one of my sisters, and then I was asked if it would be all right for the blog post to be published as an article. I hesitated but agreed to have it published in the most recent issue of The Angelos. I was both flattered and nervous.
In the same issue is a letter from the National President of Kappa Delta, Alison Jakes Argersinger. In her article she suggests that "sorority girl" still seems to have negative connotations. Movies and social media don't help combat that image but I've also realized that those sorority women who are successful in their fields--regardless of those fields--might struggle to associate their success with being in a sorority.
That made me reflect on Sheryl Sandberg's message of "Lean in." I haven't read her book but I did watch her December 2010 TED Talk, "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders" and her December 2013 TED Talk, "So We Leaned In. . .Now What?". So I could talk a bit about those TED Talks and Sandberg's message, but what intrigues me most is her emphasis on stories and the importance of our personal stories that inform, frame, influence, and shape our professional stories, and vice versa.
What also interests me are her stories about Lean In circles and their potential. What does that have to do with a sorority? I can't speak for any other sorority, but I can speak to my experience with Kappa Delta and the Delta Etas of University of South Florida, both way back then and more recently. We are a group of women who support and encourage each other because we have a bond. It is both strange and wonderful to me.
Whether or not they are in a sorority, we need to do a better job of recognizing and acknowledging the talents, capacities, and capabilities of women, and encourage them to be their best selves and to tell their stories.
What Lean In circles can do for women around the world, sororities can also do for women during and after college. Perhaps we can be more intentional about thinking about how we help women prepare for life after college, which seems to be more complex and more difficult. Perhaps we can be more intentional about how we gather and engage with one another. I'm not saying we should dispense with gatherings for purely social reasons because we need those, but even at our retreat, the social was interspersed with the professional and the personal because that is how women tend to think and be when they are with other women.
A sorority experience isn't for every young woman, I know. But I do believe the sisterhood women can find in a sorority, and which can be a lifetime influence, can make a difference in how they see and conduct themselves, can help them be participants at the table, can help them lean in, and can help them develop and tell their own stories.