In a TED talk that has rightfully received considerable attention, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently addressed the important question of “Why we have so few women leaders.”
The statistics that she points out are rather grim for women:
- Out of 109 world leaders, only 9 are women
- Of all the people in parliaments around the world, only 13% are women
- In business, women hold no more than 15-16% of C-level and Board positions
Sandberg is focused on keeping women in the workforce, particularly in corporate positions. She prescribes the following recommendations for women:
- Sit at the table. According to Sandberg, “No one gets to the corner office by sitting at the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success or if they don’t even understand their success.” The problem lies in women systematically underestimating their abilities and attributing their success to external factors rather than their own abilities. This results in women not reaching out for opportunities as much as men.
- Make your partner a real partner. Right now, the work that is done outside the home is generally viewed as more important than the work done inside the home. This makes it harder for men who may choose to stay at home while their wives work outside the home. By placing both on more equal footing, it will make it easier for women to remain in the workforce.
- Don’t leave before you leave. Her theory here is that many women step back at work in advance of having children…once they are thinking about having kids, they might not take on more challenging projects or go after a promotion, which results in them “leaving” their work before they’ve physically left.
Although her talk centers on helping more women get to the top in corporate America, it has important implications for women entrepreneurs as well, since taking advantage of opportunities, balancing work and family life, how successful women are perceived, and believing in your own ability to be successful are all pertinent issues for those of us who start our own businesses.
She concludes by saying that a world in which half of the countries and companies in the world are run by women will be a better world. We may have a long ways to go before women hold 50% of the leadership positions in global politics and in corporate America, but in U.S. business as a whole, women have made greater strides. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau data from 2007 indicates that “businesses where women were owners or half-owners numbered 12.4 million firms, representing 45.7 percent of all firms.” This trend in women’s entrepreneurship, particularly when combined with the trend in sustainable business, is indeed a powerful combination that can move us closer to a better world.
You can view the video below and then share your thoughts about it in the comments.