November 11, 2015 – U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) — A leading Facebook official encouraged U.S. Air Force Academy cadets to break through their personal gender and cultural bias’ and understand the importance of equality Nov. 6.
Sheryl Sandberg, the social media giant’s chief operating officer, spoke from the stage in Arnold Hall to promote Lean-In Circles, a peer networking program she created that has been coopted by the Defense Department.
Studies show men’s abilities are overestimated, women’s abilities are underestimated, men get promoted based on potential, and women are promoted based on their accomplishments, she said. Overall, Sandberg told the cadets, women and minorities are “systematically underestimated” in any organization.
“If you look at progress in society, the military has often led, like you did with desegregation,” she said. “Equality doesn’t just benefit society or the military as a whole — it benefits you.”
The Defense Department is trying to capitalize on Sandberg’s ideas and the Academy is advocating for Lean-In Circles where cadets can get involved.
“Lean-In Circles encourage everyone in the Air Force to take time out and get to know each other on a personal level,” said Col. Carrie Bausano, the vice commandant of the Academy’s culture and climate office.
By participating in Lean-In Circles, cadets can make strides in breaking through racial, gender, cultural and religious barriers, she said.
“Males and females can be part of the circles,” Bausano said. “The circles can adapt to any mix, to any individual who wants to make a change. From what I’ve seen, it’s very positive when people sit and share their experiences. Only good can come out of it.”
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter advocated for the program in September.
“The DOD is a learning organization and Lean-In Circles give our people a way to do what they do best: learn through mentorship, peer-to-peer and bottom up, by brainstorming with colleagues and by being able to let their guard down,” he said.