Sheryl Sandberg Talks ‘Leaning In’

PwC Sheryl Sandberg Webinar

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of the bestselling book Lean In, has seen plenty of women rise – and stall – on their way up the leadership ladder. Drawing upon these experiences and keen insights in Lean In, she examines women’s struggles with leadership, dissects the cause of real-life career roadblocks and empowers women to “lean in” to reach their full potential.

Sandberg recently sat down with PricewaterhouseCoopers US Chairman Bob Mortise and had a live, candid conversation about the book. They spent an hour discussing the messages of the book; why so few women have ascended to top leadership; what role men should play; and how companies can – and must – lean in, too.

Why Women Should ‘Lean In’

Thirty years ago in the United States, women accounted for 50 percent of college graduates, which is plenty of time for the numbers surrounding women’s representation in the workforce to change. While these numbers have changed at nearly every level – entry-level jobs, college graduates, graduate degrees and law degrees – they are just not changing at the top and stopped changing about 10 years ago.

“As business people, we know that trends that go up for 30 years and then are flat for a decade do not go up again unless we do something,” said Sandberg. “I wanted us to notice that and I wanted us to have an impassioned conversation and for people to take real action.”

While these statistics are specific to the United States, Sandberg said that she was most interested in the fact that these themes are very similar to women in vastly different circumstances around the world.

“The situations women face in Asia are much harder [than in the United States],” said Sandberg. “If we have five percent of the top jobs, they are less than one percent. And then you think about women in Africa, women are struggling to make basic ends meet for their children. A lot of these issues are just so core to the human experience that they resonate across.”

Research has shown that at the same level of performance, men will remember their performance a little high and women a little low. Sandberg described this as a confidence gap and admitted to feeling inadequate herself at times.

“Having written the book, I still feel, relative to colleagues of mine, more insecure, question my opinions and worry too much about what other people think,” Sandberg admitted. “All I can do is recognize that and be open and honest about that. We need to say to ourselves, “I’m not sure I can do this, but some guy who is less qualified than I am thinks he can. So therefore I can.”

In addition to the confidence gap, Sandberg discussed the ambition gap that women face, a theory that has received much criticism.

“Starting in junior high, when you survey boys and girls about do you want to lead, do you want to be the president of your junior high school class, do you want to be the president of your college class, do you want to be the CEO of the company you have joined, do you want to run for office? When you ask these questions, do you want to lead, more boys than girls, more men than women say yes at every level. That is what I call the leadership ambition gap. Until the gap is closed in the desire to lead, we cannot close the leadership gap.”

The Role Men Play

When it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts – especially initiatives to eliminate gender bias – men have a critical role to play. Yet studies have shown that men are untapped resources in such gender initiatives. Too many gender initiatives focus solely on changing women rather than engaging men. In their exclusive focus on women, many companies have unwittingly alienated men, inadvertently jeopardizing the success of their gender initiatives.

“This is not an issue that is being discussed because we want to be nice to girls and women. This is about our performance,” said Sandberg. “If we use the full talents of the population we are more effective. This is a basic issue of core competitiveness for companies and for countries, so we need to treat it with seriousness.”

In a recent study, Catalyst found that men will remain indifferent and therefore unlikely to support gender equality issues unless they appreciate how they can gain personally from changing the status quo.

Support from Companies

Sandberg noted that in the past, we have dealt with gender by not discussing it. “You never said you are a woman in the workplace because you didn’t want the person on the other side of the table to think you are whining or asking for special treatment,” said Sandberg.

However, if you want to become a high performance organization, you need the best and most diverse people to get you there. If you are not willing to put the hard issues on the table and talk about them openly and honestly, and try to push one another, and support one another, you will never progress: individually or as a company.

Missed the webinar? Watch it here.

We Want to Hear From You: What would you like to see in terms of a Women’s Leadership program at Jabil?

2 Responses to Sheryl Sandberg Talks ‘Leaning In’

  1. Lizet Tymon says:

    I highly recommend taking the time to watch the Webinar, it is really inspiring!

  2. Megan says:

    15 minutes that is interesting and factual. It’s the motivation we all need from time-to-time!

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