Sheryl Sandberg has a new target demographic: men.
On Wednesday night, Lean In launched a new campaign called Lean In Together. While Sandberg’s original exhortation was for women not to “leave before they leave” their jobs even if they have or might have children, now the organization wants to support and promote “men leaning in for equality.”
Including men is essential if women are going to get closer to equality. As Lean In’s president Rachel Thomas told Bloomberg News, there’s no way “we can get to true equality if men don’t actively participate.” They are, after all, not just half the workforce and half of the world’s parents; they also still hold the most powerful positions in business and politics. On an individual level, family life is a zero-sum game: someone has to feed and bathe the kids at night, arrange the play dates and doctors’ appointments, and make sure the house is clean. Currently, that someone is still overwhelmingly female. If men were to take on more of the unpaid housework, that would free up more of women’s time to spend on paid employment and they wouldn’t have to so often interrupt their careers to have families.
Lean In Together is basically telling men to “lean out” without saying as much. In a video released as part of the campaign launch, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor talk about how their husbands stepped back from their careers to support their ambitious wives. Condoleezza Rice’s father left his university job at the same school as his wife when they got married to avoid a nepotism rule. Others talk about the fathers who spent time raising them and encouraging them. The language the campaign uses, however, is not about leaning out. It’s trying to tell men they can have it all, if “all” means gaining equality while not giving anything up.