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.