Sheryl Sandberg: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

The global response to this 2010 TED Talk inspired Sheryl Sandberg to write her bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. As chief operating officer of Facebook, Sandberg is one of a handful of women to reach the upper ranks of corporate executives.

While Sandberg acknowledges that discrimination and sexism are frequently barriers for women in the workplace, she also believes that women are sometimes their own worst enemies when it comes to career advancement.

In this talk, Sandberg focuses on the personal obstacles that impede many women from achieving the same level of success as their male peers. She points out that women systematically underestimate their own abilities and contributions. Men tend to attribute their success to themselves, while women credit external forces. She describes a meeting she attended where a male executive from another company seated himself at the table while two female executives from the same company took seats along the wall.

“Sit at the table,” Sandberg advises women. “Don’t expect that you’ll get to the corner office by sitting on the sidelines.”

Another issue for women is taking themselves out of the game by “leaning back,” or allowing their career to stagnate because they think that having children will interfere with advancement. As the mother of two young children, Sandberg urges women to “lean in” and “keep their foot on the gas pedal” for as long as they can, waiting until after they have children to decide if they need to devote more energy to home and family. Sandberg also tells mothers with careers to expect their partners to share in childcare and housework rather than trying to do everything themselves. “Make your partner a real partner,” she says.

Sheryl Sandberg has held the position of Facebook COO since 2008. She also served as Google’s vice president of global online sales and operations and was chief of staff to US Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers under President Clinton. She has an undergraduate degree in economics from Harvard and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Sandberg donated the proceeds from Lean In to LeanIn.org, a nonprofit she founded to help women pursue their career goals.