Sheryl Sandberg is a renowned name in the realm of business, philanthropy, and most importantly–women empowerment in the workforce. She is known for breaking down barriers herself. Beyond this, though, Sheryl devotes a great deal of time towards writing and speaking about women leadership in their careers.
In her Ted Talk, “Why We Have Too Few Female Leaders,” Sheryl Sandberg shared some disheartening stories and statistics about women in the workforce. However, Sheryl leaves the audience with three strong messages.
As Sandberg addresses, we are lucky to be where we are in time. Women in America are far more involved in the workforce as opposed to previous generations. It is clear, though, we still face underlying issues that keep women out of the working realm to this day. If you are interested in learning more, keep reading:
Things To Know About Sandberg
“Women are not making it to the top of any profession in the world.”
This statement is at the heart of Sheryl’s TED Talk; it is the problem she focuses on. However, Sheryl Sandberg is one of the few women to to make it to the top–as the business executive serves as Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. She is also the leader of Leanin.org, a website and global community dedicated to the advancement of women and helping them achieve their goals. In June 2012, Sandberg was elected to Facebook’s Board of Director’s, becoming the only woman to ever serve on the board.
You can read more about self empowerment here: How to Empower Yourself During Quarantine
Additionally, Sandberg often speaks from her own, personal experiences. In one instance, Sheryl recalls holding a talk with Facebook. When the floor was opened for questions, all of the women put their hands down. Meanwhile, the men kept their hands up and their questions were answered. A woman later approached Sandberg, telling her that she realized that she needed to keep her hand up in order to be called on. This upset Sheryl, as it pointed out a larger issue was at hand.
In 2013, Sandberg wrote a book called Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Some statistics and facts that she provides are on the number of women currently serving in high positions. Out of 190 governing heads of state, only nine of them are women. Even in the business world, only 15% of higher settings are made up of women workers.
Sandberg’s Three Messages
Despite these grim statistics, Sheryl actively discusses the problems for potential working women and moreover–gives us ways we can improve these statistics.
Sandberg speaks on a central issue, whereas women are forced to make much harder choices in comparison with their male counterparts. The core of this issue is the idea that women have to choose between either career success or personal fulfillment. Often, women are expected to stay home and be a caretaker. Moreover, women are expected to either choose their personal life or their career path. This hard choice causes many women to just drop out, but Sheryl’s messages offer solutions and insight for all women.
Stay At The Table
This first message stems from Sheryl’s previous story–whereas all women at the Facebook event dropped their hands and the men kept their hands up. In another personal instance, Facebook invited a senior government official that brought along two women (both senior in his department). When it came time for the meeting, everyone sat around the table–but these two women sat off to the side. Even when Sandberg herself offered them a place to sit, they declined the offer.
In providing these personal examples, Sheryl highlights the bigger issue we are facing. That is, women are more likely to underestimate themselves systematically. When asked about objective criteria (like grade point average), men are more likely to overestimate their potential, while women typically guess lower. This immediately shows an underlying problem, in which women don’t see themselves as deserving–to be heard, seen, hired, successful, and so forth. Sheryl gives more weight to this thought by pointing out that men are more likely to negotiate salary, while women are more likely to settle.
“No one gets the corner officer by sitting on the side and not at the table.”
Thus, Sandberg shows us that being more confident is a crucial key to success. We have to own our potential success to achieve it. Furthermore, Sheryl reminds us to reach for opportunities–do not just wait for them to come.
Of course, Sheryl understands that this is not an easy feat. A previous study indicates that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. In other words, if a man is well-liked, he is more likely to be successful. If a woman tries to be likeable, she will not ask for the job, promotion–or take a seat at the table–because it can interfere with how she is perceived.
Make Your Partner A Real Partner
In her speech, Sheryl brings up a second topic to consider. That is, finding an equal balance in your marital relationships. Sandberg suggests that your home life needs just as much work as your work life, and thus, our partnerships have to be truly equal. Sheryl even makes a point to speak on the role of the father in care-taking. People typically look down on stay-at-home fathers. Furthermore, people expect women to care for the home and men to be working.
Society has put more pressure on men to succeed than women. In a marriage, if both partners work full-time, data shows that women are still two times more likely to do housework than men. Additionally, women are three times more likely to do more in the department of child work. Essentially, Sheryl highlights this idea that women end up having three jobs instead of just one. This means women are more likely to stop working if something were to happen in the home, and even deters women from entering the workforce all together.
“We need to make it as important to work inside the home for both genders.”
Partners who work and have equal responsibilities in the home have a lower divorce rate than couples who do not. Therefore, there is more than one reason to ensure your partner is truly a real partner. Not only will this balance help maintain a positive personal life, but also, prevents women from making additional sacrifices.
Don’t Leave Before You Leave
In her last message, Sandberg discusses the irony of women and the workforce. Some women, she says, try so hard to stay in the workforce that they end up leaving without even quitting. Life gets busy–especially when you are both working and in a relationship. Usually, women decide to leave as soon as the idea of having a family is thought of.
Making room for children in an already busy schedule leads more women to stop trying at work. Once you leave, the idea of promotions and leading projects are no longer attainable. The mere idea of pregnancy leads to a woman leaning back.
“From that moment, she doesn’t raise her hand anymore.”
Sandberg recalls a young woman coming to see her about this exact problem–the idea of having a family. Later on, Sheryl discovered this young woman was not even married or seeing anyone. This experience highlights that putting family first is so ingrained into women; so much so that we often make decisions way too early. Sheryl stresses you have to keep your foot on the gas pedal until the very day you have to hit the break (to be with your child).
A good job is required when you have a child, as children need to be provided for. Thus, do not let the idea of having children prevent you from working. If you stop taking promotions and leading projects early on, you won’t feel challenged or present at your job. This in itself makes it easier to leave and harder to succeed.
Sandberg On Her Final Regards
Sheryl Sandberg leaves us with much to think about. She says it is too late for her generation, but she still wants better for the women to come.
Sheryl has two children; one of them is a boy and one of them is a girl. Sandberg shares that she wants her son and daughter to grow up equally. In other words, Sheryl wants her kids to have the choice to contribute fully to the workplace and at home.
I want my daughter to have the choice to not just succeed, but be liked for her accomplishments.
That is a sentiment that we can all agree on.
As young women, we have all thought about the possibility of our own family in the future. However, as Sheryl points out, we are at a time where we can think about our potential in the workforce as women. Statistics show that women inherently underestimate themselves, and moreover, take on the role of caring for the house and caring for their children. Thus, it is important to remember that you are deserving and capable of achieving anything you want to do. As young women, we must give equal weight to our personal lives and professional lives. The legal and societal barriers have dropped–it is on us, now, to reach our highest potential in the working realm. Once we realize this fact, it is only a matter of time before we topple the whole system.
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