Sheryl Kara Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook, the founder of Lean In, and a philanthropist. Before joining Facebook as its COO, Sandberg was vice president of global online sales and operations at Google and was involved in its philanthropic arm – Google.org. Before that, Sandberg served as chief of staff for US Secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers.
Ms. Sandberg gave a 2010 TED Talk titled “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” which motivated her to write her bestselling book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Considering her position at Facebook, Sandberg was in a place to talk about women’s business leaders. She is one of the few women to reach such a title as chief operating officer.
While Sandberg recognizes that discrimination and sexism are common barriers for women in the workplace, she also advocates that women can be their own biggest obstacle when it comes to advancing their careers.
In her talk and book, Sandberg concentrates on the personal hurdles that hinder many women from attaining the same level of achievement as their male counterparts. She shows that women methodically undervalue their capabilities and contributions. Men have a propensity to ascribe their accomplishments to themselves, while women praise external forces.
She tells about a meeting where a male senior manager from another company took a seat at the table while two women managers from the same firm sat down in the chairs lined up against the wall.
Sandberg also tackles the concept of women taking themselves out of their job when they have children. She calls this “leaning back” or permitting their career to languish because they believe that having children will impede advancement. At the time of her talk and book, she had two young children. She implored women to “lean in” and “keep their foot on the gas pedal” at work as long as possible.
She advocates that women should hold off deciding until children are born whether to continue their career at that time or put it on hold. Mothers might be able to split their time to both jobs and families, but it is impossible to determine that until the children are actually in the picture. Then women can decide if they need to devote more energy to home and family. Bringing their partners into the fold of sharing the household chores and childcare is also essential. Women should not try to do everything on their own.
Sandberg understands that women face unique obstacles in growing their careers that men traditionally do not need to worry about. She is an example of a shift in the old paradigm that a woman must sacrifice her work to have children and a family. It takes communication with a partner, the workplace, and a belief in one’s self to make it happen, though.
Women have the power to manage their lives and career, just as men enjoyed for ages. Sandberg is a model of doing that and an inspiration for all women.