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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2017

Lean In Circles step outside the box, promoting peer engagement and equality

By J.W. Marcum NSWC PHD

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) held the last Blue Circle command “Lean In Circle” Nov. 17, closing out the final mentoring session and book chapter; the Gold Circle’s last scheduled session was Nov. 3.


Lean In Circles was launched at NSWC PHD following a presentation by Major Program Manager, Capt. Seiko Okano in September 2016. Okano was charged with leading the first round of circles within PEO IWS and inspired members at the command to begin their own program. The circles became so popular at NSWC PHD that they had to be split into two groups, blue and gold, to accommodate all the participants, while maintaining the intimacy of the circles.


With over a year since launching the pilot “Lean In Circle” at NSWC PHD, the group has seen expansion and growth while fostering a community of mentorship and encouragement.


The leaders who launched the program at NSWC PHD in 2016 were Cmdr. Sarah Rice, Engineering Workforce Competency Lead, Liz Awa, Division Supportability Manager, Deanna Ruedy, Computer Engineer, Liping Chen and Continuous Performance Improvement Innovation Lead, Sandra Lopez.


“We learned early on that a large size circle was not conducive to having discussions that would allow enough time for each member to participate,” said Lopez. “We offered to form two circles, blue and gold. The smaller sized circle seemed to work best.”


“Oftentimes members will share lessons learned and best practices they have been successful with during their career,” continued Lopez. “Members of our Lean In Circles have enjoyed the comradery, and the newly formed friendships, resulting from sharing, supportive members and increased confidence gained by forming supportive relationships.”


According to NSWC PHD Workforce Development Specialist LuAnn Georgia, “Lean In Circles are small peer groups consisting of civilians and service members of all ages, ranks and genders. The concept was adopted and implemented by the Department of Defense (DOD) through partnership with as a way to promote workforce and service member engagement and interaction, and to help DOD sustain and retain its people and to support inclusiveness as positions continue to open up for women.” is a nonprofit organization founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg to empower women to achieve their ambitions. The organization was formed on the principles found in Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Sandberg began her career as a federal employee at the Department of the Treasury.


Based on 30 years of social science research, the peer-to-peer groups meet to gain insight and to promote change in military culture. Members are encouraged to participate in peer mentoring relationships to improve the retention of women and to support them in their career development and growth, supporting teamwork and organizational community.


The next circles will be launching soon and are expected to meet twice per month.