COO of Facebook Suggests How to Get & Keep Women in the Upper Ranks

by Ann on May 11, 2011

At the Professional Women of California’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco yesterday, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, and mother of a 6 and 3-year-old, explained why there aren’t more women in higher levels of corporations and what women can do to improve the situation.

Ms. Sandberg revealed interesting statistics:
Even though women make up 50% of the population…..
-Only 15-16% of corporate Board seats are held by women and hasn’t increased in the past 9 years.
-Women lost seats in the US Congress and now only 17% of our representatives are women.
-Women still only make 77 cents on the dollar, and it’s taken 40 years for women’s wages to increase by 18 cents. Yet the price of eggs has risen exponentially during the same time.

Her suggestions to improve these numbers, include:
1. Believe in yourself. Studies show that men tend to overestimate their performance and women underestimate theirs. Sandberg suggested that when women aren’t sure that they know something, they should take a chance and go for it. Women know more than they give themselves credit for. That’s what men do. They tend to remember their abilities as slightly higher than they are. So they are willing to take more chances.
2. Make your partner a real partner with regard to housework and childcare. Sandberg said there’s this impression that women have to do it all. And, she admitted, “I do not do it all.”
3. Dream big. She explained how studies have shown that for men, success and likability are positively correlated for men, but negatively correlated for women. Meaning, people view a successful man favorably and want to work for him. With successful women, people don’t trust them and think she’s out for herself. And, both women and men don’t want to work for her. There is no penalty for a man to negotiate for himself during salary negotiations, but there is for women. This undermines ambition in women, because women care what others think of them. Nonetheless, Sandberg encourages women to “lean in” anyway. The more women that get involved and participate in companies and government, the trend will reverse over time. Women have to overcome these perceptions and push through them until there are more women at higher levels.
4. Do not leave, before you leave. Sandberg claims that women make small decisions along the way to leave a company before she actually does. A female worker may think she wants a child in a few years and starts making adjustments in her work to create a situation that supports being a mother. But that means she may forgo more difficult projects and hold herself back. She says women start thinking about having a child too early. She gave an example of interviewing a young women who asked her about work/life balance and the woman didn’t even have a boyfriend. This kind of thinking causes women to lean back and not reach for other opportunities. She says women will only return to their jobs after having children if she loves her work. She advises women who want to remain in the workforce to not make life/balance decisions too early. Find work you enjoy and apply yourself fully to create a job you love so you want to return to it.

If you noticed, the “Make your partner a real partner with regard to housework and childcare,” did not have a lot of information or suggestions. I wish high-level, successful women would explain to us in more detail how they make it work. Please tell us about the support staff they hire and explain what a typical day like is for them. There is a huge discrepancy between the salary of executives and those of mid-level working mothers. And, maybe that’s her point. Work so you get higher positions that pay more and you have more resources to create the life you want.

But do all of us necessarily want to be at the high levels? Not everyone can work at the C-level, or want that kind of work. What if we’re happy with our middle management position and want to develop an expertise? Is there anything wrong with that? Then, how do we create a decent life with balance when we aren’t at the high levels? I think that’s what the young interviewee was referring to when she asked Ms. Sandberg about work/life balance. What do the regular workers do at her company?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi Sloss May 11, 2011 at 8:22 AM

I find it very hard to “make my partner a real partner.” So many cultural expectations–if I am a good mother and wife, I should be responsible for cooking for my family–even though it is impossible for me to do and run my company. Even though in reality my husband has been responsible for many dinners since I returned to paid employement in 2000, it is still a sore spot for me.

Also, you did not include her 5tth point: Start talking about it and how we treat men and women differenly will not go away until we start talking about it.

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Elizabeth Webb May 11, 2011 at 9:36 AM

Why do we assume that work/life balance only pertains to people with children? Maybe this woman has a life that includes teaching yoga, traveling, visiting friends out of town, teaching a class at the local community college, and so doesn’t want to spend all her time slaving away so Mark Zuckerberg can make another bizillion dollars. I don’t have kids and a work/life balance is still very important to me so the fact that this interviewee didn’t “even have a boyfriend” seems irrelevant…

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Ann May 11, 2011 at 10:15 AM

Excellent point! Life balance is a concern for everyone – not just parents. Love it!

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Maxine Schoff May 13, 2011 at 8:48 AM

What if you can’t get the spouse to “get on board” Dump him? Counseling?
Or switch places and have a stay at home dad?
Love the article. Maxine

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Aaron D. Hall, Twin Cities, Minnesota Attorney August 5, 2011 at 4:00 AM

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Aaron Hall
Twin Cities Law Firm, LLC
http://www.aaronhall.com
http://MinnesotaBusinessAttorney.com/

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