Women need to have more of a will to lead, according to Sheryl Sandberg in her book, “Lean In.” Sandberg, who serves as chief operating officer at Facebook and formerly had a similar role at Google, said that despite women earning 50 percent of the college degrees in America, they haven’t suitably climbed high enough up the proverbial corporate ladder (though she replaced the ladder imagery with a jungle gym as a more accurate depiction of today’s job environment). With most people having at least 11 jobs between the age of 18 and 49, she said, research shows that people often don’t hire on with one company and stay there for a career; so instead of there just being one direct path to the top, the path might include a significant number of detours, dead ends and even more bypasses along the way.
Women don’t take enough risks or push themselves to ask for promotions and choose growth paths, according to Sandberg. During her career, she said, she observed men readily applying for new roles within the company when they might only possess 60 percent of the skills needed to do the job. Meanwhile, women didn’t apply for those same positions unless they had 100 percent of the requested skill set. Men were more likely to think that they would learn the needed skills on the job while women, who often prefer stability without risk, want to become proficient and then attempt to tackle a new role. Sandberg contends that is precisely the kind of mind set that holds women back from being all that they can be and from living up to their full potential.
Opportunities rarely are offered, Sandberg said. Instead they are seized. Women must do a better job of seizing opportunities and stretching outside their comfort zones to be more successful in the workplace. Instead of being cautious, women must confidently stick their necks out and try new projects, skills or jobs. It’s time to quit being such a rule follower. Sandberg cited an example of precisely this kind of gender behavior difference from her own personal experiences. When she was speaking to a crowd of men and women, Sandberg told them she would only take two more questions. The women lowered their hands after those two questions had been asked. The men, however, kept their hands raised and, not surprisingly, got their questions answered. Women must lean in to whatever they are undertaking — including leaving their hands raised — to get more of the success they seek.
As one of Forbes magazine’s “America’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and Time magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in America,” Sandberg is someone to whom people should listen. She encourages women to have gusto — living life and managing their careers to better optimize both.
Making smarter career and professional moves can lead to increased personal fulfillment for women and, consequently, Sandberg said, for men too. Leaning in almost always results in better outcomes. Now is the time to intensify those efforts.
— Jeanny Sharp,