Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


April 21, 2018

Launched in October 2017 in conjunction with the Food Industry’s first participation in the Women in the Workplace Study by McKinsey & Company and, the WFF Lean In Circle Chapter is bringing women together through 50+ Circles with more than 300 members in food companies across North America to grow their careers.

“We have several Circles going across various divisions of McLane and all recently completed a five-part series on Centered Leadership,” said Shaunna Williams, Director of National Accounts for McLane Foodservice Inc. who spearheaded the effort at her company. “It has gone really well with a lot more in-depth discussion than I expected and all the feedback has been positive.”

Lean In Circles were inspired by the best-selling book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In. They are small groups of about eight to twelve colleagues who meet regularly to learn and grow together. Today, there are more than 36,000 Lean In Circles across 162 countries and more than 900 college campuses. Approximately 85% of participants credit their Circle with a positive change in their life.

Circle Chapters are groups of Circles that exchange ideas, network and sometimes host events together. During the 2018 WFF Annual Leadership Development Conference in March, WFF held a large group Circle to show attendees how to apply the concept in their own workplaces. The WFF Chapter is particularly focused on helping women (and men) engage locally with peers to support one another’s career growth and work together to drive gender equity in the Food Industry.

Six months in, Williams offers these tips to get your Circle going in the right direction.

  • Keep your group relatively small. “Once people get to know each other, the walls start coming down, bonds form and friendships form. That’s where the magic happens,” Williams said.
  • Be inclusive. Williams cast a wide net across McLane to invite people to participate and made it clear they were free to extend the invitation even further. The WFF Lean In Circles at McLane are open to women and men and Circles report that male colleagues participate just as fully as women.
  • Focus on a topic. Williams tapped the resources at to access a curriculum on Centered Leadership and found that helped keep everyone engaged and on task. “Our groups enjoyed having a topic we could build on over time and explore its various facets each time we met,” she said.
  • Jump in. “This was totally new to me but has a lot of facilitator guides to walk you through it,” Williams said. “That’s how I learned what to do and that’s how I taught the other McLane Circle moderators.”

Learn more about starting a Circle within the WFF Lean In Circle Chapter.

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