Let’s start out by admitting we’re lucky, says Sheryl Sandberg, speaking to an all-woman audience at a recent Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference. We’re luck to be born female in the latter part of the 20th century.
Though we have opportunities unimagined by our grandmothers, “women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world,” says Sandberg.
In this video, Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, former economist for The World Bank and Chief of Staff to the US Treasury Department Chief, explains why. And she outlines three crucial steps women must take to achieve parity.
Don’t have time for a fifteen minute video? Sandberg’s key points are summarized below.
Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders
The problem: Women don’t lead.
Women make up 50% of the population, but we’re not leaders:
- Women don’t lead enough countries: Out of 190 heads of state, only nine are women.
- Women don’t lead enough businesses: In the corporate world, women make up just 15-16% of all C-level executives.
- Women don’t lead enough non-profit organizations: Women comprise only 20% of not-for-profit leaders.
- Women’s leadership numbers have stalled since 2002—and today they’re headed downward.
3 fixes for our dearth of women leaders
Sandberg, a mother of two, gives a balanced appraisal of the powerful forces that pull women away from corporate and civic leadership. I appreciate her acknowledgment that child rearing is the hardest of all jobs—and that work outside the home is not for every woman.
But for women who do want to stay in the workforce, Sandberg offers three pearls of wisdom:
- Sit at the table. Don’t hide on the sidelines at work—literally or figuratively. Studies show that women systematically underestimate their abilities: While men attribute success to innate qualities, women credit external factors—someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked unbelievably hard. Though it may feel counter-intuitive, place yourself in a visible place where you can see, be seen and participate in the action.
- Make your partner a real partner. While women don’t lead enough businesses, we’ve made more advances at work than at home: Today, in families with two working parents, women still perform twice as much housework and three times as much childcare as men. So, if the work-family juggle collapses, it’s most often women—who are working three jobs—who “opt-out” of professional careers. Sandberg notes, “We have to make it as important a job to work inside the home—for both genders—if we’re going to even things out and get women to stay in the workforce.”
- Don’t leave before you leave. From the moment a woman starts thinking about having a child, she “stops raising her hand” to take on initiatives and responsibilities that lead to promotion, says Sandberg. Women often begin their professional retreat years before they marry, solidify significant relationships or plan pregnancy. The professional fallout is disastrous. “Once you have a child at home, your job had better be really good because it’s hard to leave that kid at home,” says Sandberg. “Your job needs to be challenging, rewarding, you need to feel you’re making a difference.” Her advice? “Don’t leave before you leave. Stay in. Keep your foot on the gas pedal until the very day you need to leave to take care of a child—and then make your decisions. Don’t make decisions too far in advance.”
The world needs women leaders.
Like Sheryl Sandberg, I believe “a world where half of our countries and half of companies are run by women would be a better world.” I hope, like me, you’ll share this video with your daughters, nieces, women co-workers and girlfriends. And your sons, husbands, male co-workers and men friends.