Last week, my inbox alert chimed not once, but twice, with a forwarded message about the recent TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. Yes, a woman is the number two behind Mark Zuckerberg – wow! I think many assume another youngish, Ivy League, tech-savvy male works side-by-side with the Time Magazine 2010 Person of the Year, when in fact it’s Sandberg, mother of two.
So, how does she do it – juggling the demands of one of the highest profile and fastest growing companies in the world with the responsibilities of family life?
This is precisely the reason why she was speaking as part of TEDWomen, which took place this past December in Washington, D.C. The event showcased an amazing number of accomplished women including Deborah Rhodes, who developed a new tool for breast cancer detection, and Beverly Joubert, who lived in the bush with her husband to capture stunning images and footage of lions and leopards in their natural habitat. One more time – WOW!
Sandberg mentions up front that she does not have all the answers, not even for herself, but she does offer up some startling statistics and follows up with three pieces of advice for women who wish to continue advancing their careers.
To begin, a statistic that we’ve often heard and hope isn’t correct – success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. The “witchy” executive woman stereotype is proven time and again in studies. Ugg! Also, only 15 percent of C-suite and board of director positions are held by woman, and the numbers have remained flat since 2003. Double ugg!
So how do we begin to move the needle in the right direction? Sandberg shared three recommendations. While she’s doubtful that the current generation of women will experience a significant shift in attitudes and advancement in the workplace, she’s hopeful that the next generation – including the new little girl who was born into the GroundFloor Media family earlier this month – will benefit from all of us thinking and acting a bit differently about our careers.
- First, she recommends that women “sit at the table.” All to often, we are comfortable taking a seat on the sidelines and that’s just not helpful for us to be regarded as the leaders and thoughtful contributors that we are.
- Second, she suggests, “make your partner a real partner,” referring to the need for women and men to share equally in the responsibilities at home. How can a woman with a full-time job be truly successful in her career if she’s doing more of the housework, childcare, etc.
- Third, Sandberg encourages women not to “leave before you leave.” All too often, she has experienced women who are opting out of promotions or big projects as they prepare for maternity leave or a transition out of the work place. She suggests keeping your “foot on the gas” up until the moment when you make the decision to take another path.
Sandberg shared a lot more detail along with these recommendations during her talk, and the importance of her points cannot be overstated. Personally, beginning the New Year and looking to my one-year anniversary with GFM, I feel both grateful and proud to have the opportunity to work and continue to grow in an organization that is bucking national statistics and making a comfortable place for all of us – both male and female – to be successful.
Next month, GFM is looking forward to TED2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. The agency has planned to participate as a video member of the four-day event, Feb. 28 – Mar. 4, 2011, and we will be sharing highlights and lessons learned through viewing parties and blog entries.