In a TED Ed video, Sheryl Sandberg, who serves as Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, talks about this problem and more precisely about how to change the fact that too few women are making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world.
Women leaders are in short supply
To demonstrate the uncomfortable truth that most leadership positions are occupied by men, Sandberg cites a few numbers: of 190 heads of state, only nine are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, only 13% are women. In the corporate world, the share of women in the top C-level jobs tops out at 15%-16%. The numbers have not moved since 2002.
In one of the many stories Sandberg relates during her 15-minute talk, she tells how she discovered to her dismay that an equity firm’s senior partner does not know where the ladies' room is, because Sandberg is the first woman to have pitched a deal in their offices.
Stay in the workforce
Not dropping out of the workforce is the most important thing women should keep in mind if they want to reverse their fortunes, according to Sandberg. She also lists three messages that women willing to stay in the workforce should adhere to.
1. Sit at the table.
Women systematically underestimate their own abilities. When entering the workforce, very few of them negotiate their first salary, according to a study Sandberg quotes. And – most importantly – men attribute their success to themselves while women attribute it to external factors. This matters a lot, she says, because one doesn’t get to the corner office by simply sitting at the side and not at the table.
2. Make your partner a real partner.
If a woman and a man work full time and have a child, the woman does twice as much housework as the man and three times as much childcare. So she has three jobs, and he has one. Sandberg emphasises:
We have to make it as important a job to work inside the home as outside for people of both genders.
3. Don’t leave before you leave.
Many women become less active once they decide that they are going to have a child. They stop looking for a promotion, don’t take on new projects and generally become rather passive. In Sandberg’s view, this is wrong. Women should keep their foot on the gas pedal until the very day they need to take maternity leave.
Sandberg is the mother of two children, one of the richest women in the world, a Harvard graduate, a former economist at the World Bank and later chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department and a vice president at Google. Her talk should encourage women who think only men can storm the corridors of power.