Why We Have too Few Women Leaders – Ted Talks’ Sheryl Sandberg

few_women_leader_collageThe following article is a synopsis of a Ted Talks given by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. This insightful twenty minute video speaks to specific things women can do to better position themselves for leadership.

Sheryl Sandberg took the helm of Facebook in 2008 as the COO in charge of sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communication.  As a business professional she juggles the responsibilities of work and home reminding women they too can position themselves for the “C” Suites if they aspire to rise to the top of their professions.  Three strategies to consider are addressed, 1) Sit at the table, 2) Make your partner a real partner, and 3) Don’t leave before you leave.

Sit at the table! Comparing the successful actions of men and women it is observe that men aggressively take credit for being successful. They attribute their success to ‘awesomeness’. Women, on the other hand, shun success giving credit to somebody else’s help, getting lucky, or hard work.  The importance of ‘sitting at the table’ is summed up as follows:

“no one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side not at the table and no one gets a promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success”

Make your partner a real partner!  Statistics indicate in households with full time working men and women – women do two times the amount of house work and three times the amount of childcare than their male partners.  Many women choose to drop out of the workforce to become fulltime homemakers and caretakers.  This is equally unfair to men! In the American society there is pressure placed on husbands and fathers to achieve certain levels of success. Men participating in ‘mommy and me’ type activities are not always accepted into the group. These are systemic societal issues and will take generations to change. There are three key notes made by Sandberg about “making your partner a real partner”.

• Society must change the view of the homemaker / caretaker to a position as equally important and acceptable for men and women.

• Homes with both men and women sharing equally in the homemaking and caretaking responsibility experience 50% less divorce.

• The partners that share equally in homemaking and caretaking also gain an additional benefit that can only be discussed behind closed doors.

Don’t leave before you leave!  Women are hardwired to think about motherhood and families. In a story shared during the video a female staff member shared her thought about children and making space for them in her schedule. She is questioned; “are you and your husband planning for a family?” the reply, “no, I am not married – I don’t even have a boyfriend”! This simple story illustrates that women often stop looking for promotions, choose not to take on the tough projects, and sit back waiting for the time to start a family, even when that family might not be in the foreseeable future.  Sandberg urges women; “don’t leave before you leave”. Instead, keep your foot on the gas pedal and stay professionally engaged until the family is created. That is the time to make the decision that is right for the family to either rejoin the workforce or stay in the home and be a full time homemaker.

Sandberg’s final though: If half of the world’s companies and governments were run by women then we would live in a better world.  Society would then offer males the option to choose to contribute fully in the workforce or the home without the negative implications. Successful women would not just succeed but would also be liked for their accomplishments.

This Ted Talks video is well worth a 20 minute break from the daily grind to listen to Sheryl Sandberg as she shares her opinion on “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”.Watch the  The full video can be accessed at:


Filmed December 2010

By Heather K. MacTavish – School for Family and MWR, Training Instructor


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