Brave Becca Leans In Aims to Close the Confidence Gap at an Earlier Age

HBS students publish a different kind of children's book, inspired by Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In.

Image Provided

Image Provided

Sheryl Sandberg isn’t the only one encouraging women to Lean In. Harvard Business School students Preeya Sud and Ching-Ching Chen adapted the Facebook executive’s New York Times bestseller into what they hope will be a bestseller of their own.

Brave Becca Leans In is a children’s book dedicated to closing the confidence gap. The story follows wide-eyed, redheaded Becca, who enrolls in wizardry school to learn how to defeat Damon the Dragon. She accomplishes the feat in three steps: by speaking up, acting with confidence, and attributing good results to hard work, not luck—the core principles taught in chapter two of “Lean In.”

“Both of us had read Lean In prior to coming to business school,” Chen says. “But even after reading the book, I have to remind myself every day to practice the principles.”

Sud agrees. “What I noticed myself doing [in class] is caveating what I was saying with ‘I think’ or, ‘This may not be right.’ I thought, ‘Wow, we’re still doing this here, even though my classmates and I have come from some of the most cutthroat, demanding industries.'”

Through Brave Becca, the two aim to close the confidence gap still experienced in the classroom before it has the chance to develop, working to empower girls ages five through eight. In a survey the team conducted, 85 percent of parents agreed girls start to lose their confidence as early as kindergarten.

An activity guide is included at the end of Brave Becca, featuring questions for parents to ask their children, such as, “Why did Becca think she couldn’t sit at the front of the class?” On a recent visit to a local library to share Brave Becca, Chen asked a little girl that same question. Her response? She was afraid she would say something wrong.

“Our biggest goal isn’t to be a bedtime story, but to be a platform for discussion,” Sud says, sharing another story of a mother who read the book to her son and daughter simultaneously. “The girl attributed Becca’s work to luck and the boy to hard work. The mother then had the opportunity to discuss the issues with both of her children at once.”

The book, illustrated by Alfredo Montané, is available for $10.99 on Amazon, and has been endorsed by executives from Chen’s former employer, Morgan Stanley. The authors were also introduced to Sandberg, who graduated from Harvard Business School in 1995. Although she hasn’t made an official endorsement, she “likes the concept in theory,” according to Sud.

Long-term, Chen and Sud envision turning into a series and adapting other modern-day female empowerment stories, such as The Confidence Code, to the children’s book market.

“In 20 years, we hope no one is sitting in HBS classes with girls who are caveating what they are saying,” Sud says. “Instead, they are sitting at the table and leaning in.”