On Saturday at the BlogHer conference in Chicago, Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg sat down with BlogHer CEO Lisa Stone in front of an audience of thousands of women bloggers, for a conversation about what it means to "lean in."
Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, has already sold more than one million copies, and has been translated into 11 languages. Here are three tips from Sandberg on how both women and men can work together for gender equality in the workplace.
1. Reframe the way you think.
We as a society never talk about gender, Sandberg said. We need to talk about it, not just with friends, but at work as well. "For me, the blunt truth is men run the world. I say that on stages and the audience gasps. Look around. There isn't a single country in the world that doesn't have 95 percent of its companies run by men…that needs to change," she said. Individuals can make an impact, she said, by changing the companies and institutions they work for.
"Lean In is about believing in ourselves and reaching for any ambition. It's about each one of us, asking what we would do if we weren't afraid, and reaching for those ambitions, whatever they are," Sandberg said. This needs to start early. "When little girls lead, they're called bossy. Over time, children internalize these messages," Sandberg said. She asked the audience to raise their hands if they’ve ever been told they were bossy, and almost every hand went up.
The same thing happened when Sandberg asked whether women were told they were too aggressive at work. Boys are not told they are being bossy, and men are not being told they are too aggressive in the workplace. That needs to change, Sandberg said. "[The] next time you want to call your daughter bossy, take a deep breath and say, 'My daughter has executive leadership skills,'" Sandberg said.
2. Get support.
The mission of Leanin.org is clear: "We want to provide women with the encouragement and support to lead. We want women and men to believe we can get to real equality…we want to close the pay gap," Sandberg said. Lean In Circles are small groups of eight to twelve men and women who get together regularly to help each other advance in their careers. "The idea behind circles is none of us does this alone. We all need support," Sandberg explained. Recommendations for circles include a commitment to get together regularly either virtually or in person, a circle of peers from other companies, and strict confidentiality of what's shared within the circle. Leanin.org provides free expert lectures and discussion guides on topics ranging from negotiation to using body language to increase your influence.
3. Realize your right to be there.
Sandberg wants women to sit at the table, instead of sitting on the sidelines. In her book, she references a meeting at Facebook with then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner where the men were seated around a conference table and the women sat in chairs off to the side. The women appeared as spectators, rather than participants, Sandberg noted.
"Everywhere I go, senior executive men say to me, 'You are costing me so much money because all the women in my company are demanding raises.'" Sandberg said she doesn't apologize. She wants more women to sit at the table, and to do so unapologetically. "It's going to take all of us working together."
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