Sheryl Sandberg, the executive COO of Facebook and mother of a five-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, is an excellent representation of what the majority of women in the business world seek to achieve. She was the Vice President of global online sales and operations at Google and she currently serves on Facebook’s Board of Directors, having been the first woman to do so. Besides, in 2012 she featured in the list of the most influential people in the world according to Time magazine and she is also part of the Board of Women for Women International and V-Day.
Sandberg delivered a TED talk on ‘Why we have too few women leaders’ in 2010 which focused on the lack of women in top business positions, discussing both the reasons and solutions for this. There are plenty of data that prove that women are not making it to the top of any professional sector and that women, compared to men, face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfillment.
Generally, when discussing how women can reach top jobs and climb the ladder of success, the main focus is on external factors including flextime, mentoring and programs companies should implement to train women. However, this TED talk is innovative in that it focuses on what we, as women, can do for ourselves as individuals. This is exactly why I recommend this TED talk to every single woman, not just women in the business world, but women in every sector trying to achieve greatness.
Sandberg discusses how women can change the numbers at the top by emphasizing three crucial messages that every single woman should follow in order to stay in the workforce.
- Sit at the table
Sandberg emphasizes the key differences in men and women, particularly how women tend to underestimate their own abilities and not negotiate for themselves in the workforce. Besides, whereas men attribute their success to themselves, women attribute it to other external factors such as help from someone, luck or hard work. Therefore, she concludes that the problem with this is that ‘No one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success.’ Hence, the first advice she gives is to ‘Believe in yourself and negotiate for yourself. Own your own success’ .
- Make your partner a real partner
To support her point, Sandberg states that if in a couple both work full time and have children, the woman does significantly more housework and childcare than the man does. The problem with this is that if one needs to be home more often, it is obviously the woman who has to leave her job. She suggests that this ought to change and that there should be a more balanced distribution between both partners.
- Do not leave before you leave
She shows that women start thinking about the impact of having children extremely early. As soon as they start thinking about having a baby, they stop raising their hand, stop looking for a promotion and stop taking on new projects, and consequently lean back whether consciously or not. However, she advises every woman not to take decisions too far in advance and to keep your ‘foot on the gas pedal until the very day you need to leave to take a break for a child’.
In conclusion, if you are a woman interested in succeeding in this highly competitive workforce I highly advise you to listen to this TED talk and put into practice every single piece of advice she offers. If we all work together and implement these changes in our behavior and attitudes, we will alter the trend faster than we expect.