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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Defends ‘Lean In’

Robin Young interviews Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Coolidge Corner Theatre for a discussion of her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Robin Young interviews Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Coolidge Corner Theatre for a discussion of her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg‘s new book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” is number one on both the New York Times and Amazon best seller lists.

“It turns out men still run the world, and I’m not so sure that’s going so well.”

Sandberg’s non-profit of the same name is also thriving.

Sandbery has reignited a contentious debate about the role of women in the workplace and what they can do to move into leadership roles.

Here & Now’s Robin Young recently sat down with Sandberg, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass.

Sandberg says she wrote the book because she saw how women were being held back in corporate America. She notes that only 14 percent of executive officers are women – a figure that hasn’t change in 10 years.

“I’m worried about stagnation for women. It turns out men still run the world, and I’m not so sure that’s going so well,” Sandberg said, drawing a laugh from the audience.

Sheryl Sandberg book

Some people have said Sandberg should work to change the system instead of calling on women to assert themselves more.

Sandberg says we have to make changes at both levels.

She points to the Scandanavian country of Norway, which has generous government-supported maternity and paternity leaves and accessible childcare.

“They have every public policy and institutional reform we could ever argue for, and do you know how many women lead their top companies? Less than three percent,” Sandberg said.

In her book, Sandberg points to research that reveals women downplay their own accomplishments and largely attribute their own success to “working hard, help from others, and luck,” while men attribute success to “core skills.”

Beyond the systematic problem, Sandberg says that women bear their own responsibility when it comes to being successful. They need to be assertive, ambitious and more self-confident. Otherwise, she says, women are holding themselves back.

What do you think of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy? Join the debate on Facebook.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/NewtonsBob Bob Kavanagh

    Why should I care if a woman is my boss? Is she going to provide me with better pay and improved benefits?

  • J__o__h__n

    Parents shouldn’t bring infants to lectures and other adult events. 

  • J__o__h__n

    That’s great that she leads by example by leaving at 5:30.  She was too lenient about the Yahoo CEO.  The issue isn’t that she canceled working from home, the issue is she did so while building an onsite nursery for her own child.  So much of the argument for more female CEOs is that they will have more family friendly policies.  Therefore it is fair to judge the Yahoo CEO on her actions. 

  • http://twitter.com/Storm_8 Gregg Double You

    I find this odd, because these are not women’s issues but issues of those professionals who are not in a position of institutuional power.  As an African American male I could make many identical claims – in a playground control not only be White men but white women too.

  • Mareekniest

    It’s time we realize that having children, becoming a mother, is NOT a deficit. becoming a mother makes a woman better, smarter, more creative! Women force themselves to put off having children to devote their energy to their career. Workplaces run by men often pay women less or don’t advance them because they want time off for children! This is wrong thinking. Women without children because they choose not to have children can be amazing at their work also. But women who want children, who take the time to have them and make room in their work life to raise them are better employees for it! They expand and grow and focus and create like never before! We are only bringing ourselves down by not allowing room for this in corporate America.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyFroggg J Frog

    “She points to the Scandanavian country of Norway, which has generous government-supported maternity and paternity leaves and accessible childcare.”

    Norway:  less than 5 million citizens, pumps 3.2 million barrels North Sea oil a day, They run a Budget SURPLUS!

  • anon

    I appreciate the message here and support equal pay like the sky is blue, but the way she generalizes gender mentalities (“men think..” “women feel..”) is quite grating. We’re all individuals. My boss, boss’s boss, and boss’s boss’s boss are all women. They are also all insatiably corrupt in that oh so corporate way which pervades upper management everywhere. I’ve been at the receiving end of remarks I consider sexually demeaning to my person, while they clearly believe they’re being playful or innocent. Would I rather work for a man? What an inane question. No, I want to work for different personalities. Give the women their due but I’m skeptical that a gender shift at the top will trickle down those warm and tender sympathies to the rest of us workers. Seems corporate power has a numbing effect on all of us breathing the heady air at the top.

    • guest

       Her book talks about how women can cut other women down or how women aren’t immune to being arseholes.

  • CookeP

    My wife was at the Philly event and brought home the book.  I have started to read it and find something annoying on almost every page. She seems oblivious to the irony of her own anecdotes.  For example, hosting a meeting with Geithner. His 4 female subordinates do not sit at the table.  Who do you suppose told them to do that? She invites them to the table, they decline.  What do you think would have happened if they had said yes? TG would probably have reamed them a new one afterward. I know I had exactly that experience early in my career as a consultant working for a Big 4 firm.  As well as “mentoring” the young women after the fact she could have called TG on it preferably publicly but at least privately. To quote Susan Cain “the correlation between the loudest person in the room and the best ideas is zero”. Sandberg needs to read her book!

  • Marsha Blair

    The reason things never change is because we are trying to make the changes at a superficial level.
    Women are still playing the men’s game- lead with EGO not loving wisdom.

    Women haven’t learned to appreciate their true nature and are expecting men to define it for them.
    Our leadership will begin when we LEAD others to understand at the deepest level how our loving, unconditional wisdom is a natural way and will benefit all. We cannot expect men to innately understand this- they don’t have it ( I say with Love!)

    Problem solving, at this point in time, is too superficial .

    • Robert Riversong

      Just as we now understand that there are no sharp dividing lines between “male” and “female”, but rather an entire spectrum of sexuality and gender identity, it’s past time to let go of the other binary stereotypes of men and women.

      The recently deceased Margaret Thatcher should be enough evidence of just how ruthless and aggressive a woman can be when she’s simply “being herself”. And our current president, Barack Obama, should be evidence as well of how conciliatory, compromising  and caring (and ineffectual) a man can be.

  • Robert Riversong

    Public Radio should stop allowing unchallenged the much-repeated statement that  women earn 7o-ish% of the wages of men for the same work. This has been thoroughly discredited as misleading at best, or propagandist at worst.

    An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women

    PREPARED FOR:
    U.S. Department of Labor
    Employment Standards Administration
    January 12, 2009

    During the past three decades, women have made notable gains in the workplace and in pay equity, including increased labor force participation, substantial gains in educational attainment, employment growth in higher paying occupations, and significant gains in real earnings.

    • In 2007, women accounted for 51 percent of all workers in the high-paying management, professional, and related occupations. They outnumbered men in such occupations as financial managers, human resource managers, education administrators, medical and health services managers, and accountants and auditors.

    • In 1970, the median usual weekly earnings for women working full-time was only 62.1 percent of those for men; by 2007, the raw wage gap had shrunk from 37.9 percent to just 21.5 percent.

    However, despite these gains the raw wage gap continues to be used in misleading ways to advance public policy agendas without fully explaining the reasons behind the gap.

    There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.

    Summary and Conclusions
    Economic research has identified many factors that account for portions of the gender wage gap. Some of the factors are consequences of differences in decisions made by women and men in balancing their work, personal, and family lives. These factors include their human capital development, their work experience, the occupations and industries in which they work, and interruptions in their careers.

    As a result, it is not possible now, and doubtless will never be possible, to determine reliably whether any portion of the observed gender wage gap is not attributable to factors that compensate women and men differently on socially acceptable bases, and hence can confidently be attributed to overt discrimination against women.

    • Davidjohnson98

      Thank you Robert for putting in the effort to provide exceptions to the hypothesis being presented. 

  • JonjayOak12

    Funny she kept dodging the few hard questions Robin asked. She also made excuses for people she personally knows(harvard and yahoo). It’s also funny that the Facebook COO(One of the worse companies in terms of privacy and questionable practices) claims that man are careless and a major factor in everything that is world with the world.

  • btraven99

    Not every person views their work as the be-all and end-all of their life’s meaning.  Many  men and women work for the major reason to put food on the table, have a roof and provide opportunities for their children — they want to do that and have a life outside of work.  Giving these people the opportunity to do so is so much more important than the self-actualization of brilliant, beautiful rich people that, in addition to hard work, happened to be at the right place in the right time in history.  Unfortunately, the work lives of normal, scuffling people are often sacrificed to the ambitions of the super-achieving.

    Once someone has accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars, work is a hobby and is no more noble (depending on the work) than quilting.

  • Mommyhasthecreditcard

    Why do we assume the people in corporate power hold the most influence? Women do not need to hold seats of power in corporations to change the world.  There is alot of hand-wringing over a lack of women in corporate leadership.  But in the end, it is the corporation that suffers.  If corporate America doesn’t want to yeild to women…fine.  We can thrive without them.  The world is changing and corporations should be shaking in their boots.  If you look at the bios of the most influential or “powerful” people throughout history, they are not only heads of corporations.  Writers, artists, policy makers and activists are often more effective leaders than those in business.  In fact, a recent report by Technoratimedia  suggests that consumers (ya know, those people who drive the economy) are more influenced by Blogs than by Social Media in their decision making.  By that measure, it seems that wildly popular mommy bloggers such as Momastery and Lisa Leaker have more influence on the US economy than Sheryl Sandberg. 

  • Angelalevine

    I thought this was a great interview – it really made me want to buy the book!  Sheryl Sandberg makes a lot of sense to me.

  • Mary Margaret

    We all see and understand the world through our own lens and experience. And, while it seems conflicting and paradoxical, everyone speaks their personal truth. What I love about Sheryl Sandberg and lean in is that it’s not about blame, it’s about stating her values, beliefs and concerns not only about women but about the world. How are we doing? I have purchased the book, which I have not yet read and joined joined lean in because I believe it is a platform focussed on development that can benefit us all.
     In the end, through out history most of us have followed the value systems, voices, leadership and business models dictated by a few human beings a very long time ago. They happen to have been men,even if they their words and dictates come from a holy book. As we are all in this same unsustainable boat, it would be good for each of us to start listening to ourself, state what we want and need, believe in our power, realize our interdependence and play an active role to overcome our personal, societal and global challenges. Thank you Sheryl Sandberg for daring to dream big and bring action to your vision of a global community encouraging and inspiring women to be seen, heard and determined to be their own solution and make a difference in the world.

  • Hannahleah

    Thank you for this excellent interview. It was only tarnished for me by closing comments by Robin saying “if a woman chooses to work.” This assumes: 1. there is a choice and 2. if the woman stays at home with children and/or maintaining the home that she is NOT working. Most women know that work in the home and with children IS very hard and important work…not just sitting around watching daytime tv and eating bon bons. The culture does not yet honor it. Here again, the language must change. I know it was inadvertent, but by not using the phrase “working out of the home” along with women and working, women are again demeaned in this culture.  So, I propose that the Public Broadcasting style book change to state “work out of the home” when talking of women’s work because the reality is that working IN the home IS work….just not paid.

  • Rjdarling

    I have to say, Sandberg’s life sounds like my worst nightmare. Instead of everyone fighting for more women working more hours in jobs that are virtually insignificant to real life (Facebook is the biggest waste of human time and energy. In fact, if people contributed to society the way they contribute inane details of their boring lives to Facebook, there would be no need to write these kinds of books.), we should be fighting for both men and women to reconnect with their families, friends and communities. We should all be fighting for 35 hour work weeks, not 70 hour work weeks and nannies for everyone. If we accept Sandberg’s new “normal” work demands, the whole world is going to go down the toilet. And for what? So you can post pictures from your Tahitian vacation and make your friends jealous? I’m sorry, but I’m not fighting the good fight for that.
    However, it is a shame that the few real issues Sandberg raises are drowned out by “advice” that is relevant to less than 1% of the world.

  • Lori Hillman

    Many thanks to Sheryl Sandberg for reigniting the conversation and, potentially, the
    Women’s Movement.

    While the book provides valuable information and keen thought
    starters, I am disappointed that it does not address the impact of
    aging parents on the career tracks of many women. Studies confirm
    that the responsibility of elder care falls overwhelmingly on adult
    daughters – often women who have earned senior roles at work. I know
    because I am one of them.

    Striving for both balance and career success doesn’t end as our kids
    grow up. In fact, when the normal life cycle is at play, the challenge
    begins again – right as our kids are graduating from high school. And all too often, working mothers are managing the needs of their 
    young children and aging parents at the same time – while also trying
    to lean in to their careers.
    I am eager to see Sandberg’s leadership bring attention to this additionalchallenge that many women will continue to face as our populationages.

  • bgt

    Unfortunately Sandberg tarnished her credibility by her pompous, belligerent, unprofessional claim of ”being the only grown up in the room” during prior interviews. Very disrespectful to the males who started these companies.  She will probably never start anything on her own but just resort to taking credit for what others have done.

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