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Town Square

Sheryl Sandberg Urges Women To Lean In

Original post made by Angela Hey on May 8, 2013

On Wednesday May 8th, the Computer History Museum continued its Revolutionaries Speaker Series with Google's chairman, Eric Schmidt, interviewing Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg.
Eric praised Sheryl for the way she had created a $20B business at Google, building teams and organizing sales operations. He noted she was one of the few people to build two multibillion dollar businesses – first at Google, now at Facebook. In addition, her recent book Lean In is a best seller.
When interviewing with Eric for a position at Google, she found the job did not match her checklist of requirements. The role was not defined and it lacked clear, measurable objectives. Eric told her that some companies take off like rocket ships. "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship don't ask what seat", Eric advised Sheryl. "The best business advice ever", said Sheryl.
Choice of mate is crucial for women – find one that will support you. Sheryl said she befriended all kinds of men, but when it came to her husband she had to find someone who supported her fully. She noted many female CEOs have very supportive spouses.
Sheryl is concerned that gender stereotypes start early. For example, she sent her 7-year old son to a Stanford iD tech camp. Of the 5 girls in the camp, she had introduced two to the camp – her niece and a friend. Even Silicon Valley's tech-savvy parents are favoring boys over girls when it comes to introducing them to technology.
Call out the stereotypes when they are challenged, advised Sheryl. She asked how many of the men in the audience had been told they were too aggressive. Answer, virtually none. How many women? Many. She mentioned that, in a Google meeting, Eric would ensure everyone had a chance to speak up.
Growing up, Sheryl demonstrated a bias for action. Her parents made her get up and do something, even if she felt under the weather. Her younger siblings felt they were her first employees, as she bossed them around.
Despite the strides that women have made in business, Sheryl's thesis is that you need to play along with the culture. So women need to smile and justify their position when negotiating, much more so than men. In the US, where women make 23% less than men and 30% of children are raised by single mothers, Sheryl feels it is vital that women take more senior positions, both in politics and in business. An effect of her book is that women are Leaning In and asking, and getting raises. She'd like to see Hillary Clinton make a run for the White House in 2016.
The book represents the beginning of the Lean In movement. Circles of women and of fathers with daughters are forming all over the world to empower women. Checkout LeanIn.org and start your own Lean In Circle to help more women lead.

Comments

Posted by Wo\'O Ideafarm, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

Ms. Hey, my post was intended to open a conversation, not to stifle one. Being the eternal optimist, I still hope to see real dialog on sexuality and gender roles, two topics that this population appears to be incapable of discussing vigorously and respectfully.

IMO, feminists are right about the problem, but they are wrong about the solution. I invite you to engage me in a conversation in which we focus on what we are likely to agree upon: the problem.

My impression of what has appeared here about Ms. Sandberg is that she is being promoted as a role model for girls and women. What exactly are the ideas that this "Sandberg Role Model for Women" promotes? How would Ms. Sandberg answer, "What is a good, strong woman?"

Alternatively, we could consider the "Sandberg Role Model" outside of the context of gender. What would Ms. Sandberg answer to, "What is a good, strong person?"

I would like very much to have a real conversation here with people who identify with Ms. Sandberg's views. Perhaps Ms. Sandberg would participate in our conversation. In any conversation, I would like to focus on the ideas that we all agree on, so that we can become acquainted with each other and become aware of the full range of what unites us. I suspect that what unites us will turn out to be more important than what might divide us.

What would Ms. Sandberg say is the problem? How would she frame the problem? What group is the focus here? For example, if Ms. Sandberg is interested primarily in raising the self esteem of teenage girls, then the problem is "self esteem" and the group is "teenage girls".


Posted by Angela Hey, Mountain View Voice Blogger
on Aug 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Angela Hey is a registered user.

Hi IdeaFarm,
I saw the book as a way for employed women or job seekers being encouraged to be bold and not afraid of pushing themselves forward. I don't think it applies to every woman, some are content to be happy, relaxed and useful. Some like to be followers, rather than leaders. So given you want to be a leader and are a woman it has good advice.

I would love to discuss this issue in a public forum, as there is much to say.

What is a good strong woman might be very different for ocean rower Roz Savage (see RozSavage,com) than for Sheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman or Marissa Mayer.

My own background was a girls school where the motto was Age Quod Agis - Do What You Do (meaning do whatever you do well). The headmistress admonished us "Be Ye Perfect", one classroom displayed "Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman" (William Shakespeare, King Lear (1608), Act V, scene 3, line 272) and with only about 5 school rules one of the worst crimes you could commit was not wearing your hat on the way home from school. Nevertheless, with an excellent physics teacher we outshone the boys school when it came to external exams.

I am about to review on Amazon, where I have a review of LeanIn, a pre-release copy of a book by Alison Wolf which is due out in October called the XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World. Alison is a professor at Kings College, London University. Her research and extensive summary of other people's research shows that you can't look at women en masse. That the most highly educated segment of women is very different from some of the others.

On leaving college, I have found from experience and coaching at Bell Labs/AT&T (where by law we had to have a class on affirmative action each year) because women had traditionally been switchboard operators, secretaries or clerks all their lives, while men climbed poles, went down inspection chambers, supervised a group, then went on the management track. The classes were very informative and eye-opening, particularly to some of the men who were twice my age.

Here's what to watch out for:
- in a meeting where people sit round a table, eyes will often look at the tallest white male in the room, tallness tends to be an attribute of CEOs
- when men interrupt nobody notices, when a woman does people think she's rude - so women don't interrupt people enough
- a man's perception of women tends to be based on people he knew when young - mother, sister, grandmother - so he may treat female colleagues like that

This is what I think the problems are:
- women of equal caliber to men are often overlooked for promotion
- women think that to get promoted they must work hard, when a male colleague may think it's fine to be off playing golf and he will get promoted
- women may think that asking for a lower salary will get them the job, when in many cases the one who asks for the higher salary is seen as more valuable (think buying expensive shoes, vs cheap ones) and the job may not necessarily go to the lowest cost labor - so one effect of Sheryl's book is that women are emboldened to ask for more and are getting it
- many women at work feel they are not qualified - a woman might look at a job description and say I don't have that qualification and not apply, whereas a man will go ahead

I admire Sheryl for telephoning Google chairman, Eric Schmidt to ask him for a job. In 1985, I had two interviews with Eric Schmidt for a job when he was a VP at Sun, I didn't push, didn't dare telephone him to follow up, had some concerns about the wisdom of the project and the job went to an internal male candidate. So I missed a big opportunity by not pushing myself as a viable candidate. A big part of her book is about having the nerve to do things - speak up, telephone, get in front of the right people.

As for "What is a good strong person?". If one was brought up in a culture with strong beliefs, it might be someone who adhered and promoted those beliefs. For example, a Christian may think the most important thing is that their children follow Christ, not that their child is creative, brilliant, well-paid or gets top grades. At my girls' school we had an afternoon discussing in detail the question "What is the educated man?". We arrived at the conclusion that the educated man (as in mankind, meaning man or woman) was someone who could converse with anyone, anywhere and make them feel better about themselves. If you separate "good" from "strong".

Good might mean obeying the law, yet in Silicon Valley there's a culture of breaking the rules. I was shocked at our local town movie - Pirates of the Caribbean which has as a theme "rules are just guidelines, it's OK to break them". Do we want to have a nation of scofflaws? One of the key drivers for public education in the 1800s was to stop the people rioting and complaining and create people who would obey their government. On the other hand, good might mean altruistic and generous - helping others, making others feel good. Also good might mean creating happiness, removing sorrow. So there are many ideas about good.

Strong could mean persistent - as is needed for ocean rowing or for attaining expertise in a discipline. Strong might mean not just standing up to criticism, but fighting against it. Strong might mean that others look up to you and respect you.

Sheryl goes into some detail in her book about the gender research, drawing on resources at Stanford. Sometimes they have open seminars there where you can learn more about the latest findings - Web Link.

Why would you want to unite us? Women tend to want to do that more than men. Why wouldn't we want to divide society into people with different views and agree to let people live with them. Think of a musician - there are orchestra players who are united, but with different instruments. There's the conductor who leads. There's the music teacher - some coach individuals, some coach groups. Then there's the listener. Then there are different genres - a rock concert at Shoreline is very different from a recital in Stanford's music department which is again different from a Country and Western band playing at a barbecue. One might dislike a Mick Jagger concert, but love listening to (and watching) Lang Lang. So I don't think it's necessary or desirable that people are united. Even in business, some companies have very different cultures from others - some compete very aggressively and would never unite. Some compete in some areas - Samsung might supply memory to Apple, but a Galaxy competes with an iPhone.

As for teenage girls and their self esteem, much has to do with parenting, school choice, domicile, peers or lack of peers, major life challenges, what they produce, what they consume, family position, where they get their information, who and how they compare themselves with others, as well as their values, beliefs and traits. I didn't see the book as being primarily about teenagers - although there is a serious problem with girls getting turned off science when they are surrounded by boys - I saw this when a niece moved from a girls school to a mixed school for her last 2 years of high school and decided to study geography instead of biotech at university (although she applied for both at her school of first choice). I do think the book is about encouraging the majority of women to have higher self esteem. However, one does come across women who exhibit the Dunning-Kruger effect. Wikipedia says "Dunning and Kruger were awarded the 2000 satirical Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology for their paper, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments"

I could go on. If you want more about the book I suggest you look me up on Amazon and see my review.