Conversation Starters: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

“Conversation Starters” is a series in which we will spotlight top female leaders who have worked hard to shine a light on the challenges that women face– these women have started the conversation… how do we move it forward?

A Stalled Revolution?  

In her now famous TED talk, Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, states pointedly that the problem we face is that “Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world.” Sandberg calls this phenomenon the stalled revolution, for while women and men now enter college in equal numbers, the same is not true for women entering the higher echelons of the workforce.

And so, this powerful female leader advances three key pieces of advice for her female counterparts:

  1. Sit at the table. Raise your hand, speak up, negotiate your salary. Make sure you are heard and that you contribute.
  2. Make your partner a real partner. No woman can balance a pristine home, children, and her work life perfectly. Make sure that your husband, boyfriend, or significant other really is your PARTNER and EQUAL.
  3. Don’t leave before you leave. As Sandberg puts it, many women start thinking about the rest of their lives—family planning and all—far ahead of their male counterparts. But once you start doing that, she warns, you automatically (and often, unconsciously) start pulling back. You don’t go for that CEO position or that promotion because you’re anticipating… your waiting for what’s coming next. But until you HAVE to make that decision, DON’T. Don’t stop giving it—your work, your passions—your all.

Another interesting point Sandberg makes, this time in her commencement address to Harvard Business School Graduates in the Class of 2012, is that there exists a “professional ambition gap” between men and women. Have we seen and felt this gap? Yes. In fact, a large part of the reason we started this blog was because we literally felt and saw that gap WIDEN dramatically during our freshmen year of college itself.  Thoughts?


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