Today I had the experience of attending a luncheon hosted by The Commonwealth Institute (TCI), featuring the eloquent, intelligent, and incredibly motivational Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. After blazing through her captivating new book Lean In in just a matter of hours last week, I could hardly wait for the opportunity to hear her speak in person and perhaps offer a taste of the secret recipe that has helped her become the respected business-woman she is today. Just as I was hoping and fully expected, Sandberg's talk closely mirrored the ideas in her book, and I walked away feeling stronger and even prouder to be a woman than when I walked through the elegant conference hall doors just a few hours earlier. As a young woman just entering the workforce myself, Sandberg's message, illustrated both in Lean In and by her discussion at the TCI luncheon, strikes a particularly strong chord. For me, today's event was the perfect opportunity to see first-hand how hundreds of women in the Boston area are breaking gender stereotypes in the work place and embracing their gender as an asset rather than shying away from it, taking their hard-earned "seats the table," as Sandberg puts it. Sandberg's central argument is there needs to be some serious gender reform in the United States, particularly in the workforce, and she calls on both men and women to jumpstart the conversation. She especially encourages women to take control of breaking down gender stereotypes in the workplace by leaping into their careers with heads held high and beaming senses of self-confidence. After all, according to Sandberg, "One of the best ways to break down an institution is to run it." At the luncheon, she explained that a heated national conversation about gender is a great place to start the reform – it's time to talk openly about barriers to women's success openly, and then take these barriers and work together as a society to tear them down. My first few months as a working woman fully "leaning in" to my job have been exciting and fast-paced, and I fully intend to take Sandberg's words to heart when she stresses the importance of young women entering their blossoming careers with no anticipated roadblocks already in mind. Instead, as women, we must enter the work place with the expectation that we can, and will, be just as successful as our male colleagues, and that it is completely possible to have both a fulfilling personal life and full-time career. I will remember Sandberg's main tokens of advice, which I believe are: run confidently into challenges rather than meagerly tip-toe away, take the time to connect and build meaningful relationships with the people around you, and perhaps most important, do not under any circumstance underestimate your own worth and capabilities. So, as I continue to lean forward into my own career, my professional goal is to someday achieve an influential and respected voice in the working world; my personal goal, however, is to earn this status in a society that no longer punishes successful women with harsh judgments and instead celebrates them for their success, intelligence, and invaluable contributions to their workplaces, homes, and communities.