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Women in Leadership Spotlight: Sheryl Sandberg

In recent years, the name Sheryl Sandberg has appeared frequently on lists such as: “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” by Fortune, “50 Women to Watch” by The Wall Street Journal, “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes, and “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time.

A former graduate of Harvard Business School and current Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Inc., Ms. Sandberg is a prominent face representing women in leadership. She has spoken on the topic at venues such as Barnard’s Commencement address in May 2011 and Harvard Business School’s commencement this past May. Her speech “Why we have too few Women Leaders” given at a TED conference, has over one million online views, indicative that people are listening to her inspiring words.

Indeed inspiration and encouragement seem to be the qualities that distinguish Sandberg’s approach to increasing women in the workforce. This contrasts with many discussions of women and leadership that strongly critique institutional flaws and outside causes of the gender gap in leadership.

Essentially, Sandberg does not disagree with any of the systemic problems that exist. However, she primarily focuses her discussion on what women should actively do at an individual level to reach the highest rungs of leadership and management.

Her speeches include three key pieces of advice to women: 1) Sit at the table, 2) Make your partner a partner, and 3) Don’t leave until you have to leave. She implies that each of these three actions has important implications for women’s ultimate career trajectories.

For example, telling women to sit at the table stems from years of witnessing first-hand that women tend to sit on the side of the room. She believes this represents the tendency of women to systematically underestimate their own abilities, compared to men who overestimate it. This psychological barrier prevents women from getting promotions, negotiating their salaries, and ultimately owning their own success.

When Sandberg talks about “making your partner a partner,” she refers to women having to create an equitable relationship with their spouse so that the burdens of home life and family life are evenly shared. Only in such relationships can women and their spouses be allowed to invest equal time and energy into their career developments.

Finally, Sandberg’s third piece of advice again hinges on frequent psychological tendencies of women. Women prematurely worry about their future work-life balance and self-select themselves out of opportunities before such sacrifices need to be made. Examples include women who opt out of intense medical fellowships during medical school, or women who decide not to try for partner after years of work in a law firm. She warns that premature worries become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If later women struggle with work-life balance, all their forsaken opportunities deter them from selecting work over other life activities.

Sandberg’s approach to closing the leadership gap stems from an internal impetus for women to close the ambition gap. She urges all women to take on compelling projects, embrace advancement opportunities, and enrich themselves in the fields most appealing to them. Women must feel challenged and passionate about what they do, otherwise they will drop out of the workforce feeling bored and undervalued.

Studies clearly show that women have everything it takes to become successful leaders. But maybe Sandberg is on to something. Before they can change the system, perhaps women have to change their actions first.

BLG Leadership Insights Social Media

Zuckerberg on Jobs (and a lot more!)

This past week Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg sat down with Charlie Rose for a wide-ranging interview about everything from their battles with Google, to the Arab Spring, to how Steve Jobs influenced Zuckerberg. The interview is a must see not just for those involved in the tech world, but also for everyone who is interested in the future of leadership.

Zuckerberg on Jobs and the entire Charlie Rose interview (video)

BLG Leadership Insights Ideas Social Media

Retire Your Resume…Please

If you are looking for a job it’s probably best to throw your resume away. Everyone has one and thanks to resume workshops, websites, and books they all look the same. If your resume is professional it is no doubt typed up with something very close to Times New Roman and it’s in 12 point font. I bet you even use bullet points. Way to stick out.

But if you don’t believe me–maybe you’ll trust the Wall Street Journal. According to a recent article more and more recruiters are finding job candidates on Facebook.

So much for resumes. It’s the age of the ‘cool’ looking social media profile. The resume is dead.

Half of me is grateful. I hated formatting resumes on Word or any other text editor. It took forever. The second you indented one job another one would disappear.

But the other half of me is scared. Resumes are boring–but they have established rules to follow and set guidelines. I know that if my resume has a purple cover page, I’m making a mistake. With social media profiles we’re still in gray territory. Is it OK to tell future employers about the minutia of your day? Do you want them to see pictures from your vacations and your nights out?

Maybe. The trick is figuring out how to do these things with a little class and an ounce of humor. But before we iron out the details there will be a lot of mistakes.

So if you want to stick out and be on the cutting edge–take a deep breath and drag your resume to your recycle bin. After that figure out a way to show the world what you can do without putting people to sleep.

Leadership Videos

What is the Internet Hiding From You? (video)

If you are at all curious about the invisible flow of on-line information you need to see and hear this TED talk by Eli Pariser. It will make you take a second look at the Internet and your place within the new world it is shaping.

Oh and I should also note that I stumbled across this video in my Facebook feed today. Trust me, after you watch the video this seemingly minor bit of information will become much more than just a personal aside.


BLG Leadership Insights Social Media

Top 5 Social Media and Tech Stories of the Day 5.12.11

It hasn’t been a slow day so far in the world of social media and tech. Check out these interesting stories about what’s going on:

1. Facebook developer Buddy Media buys Spinback

2. Using Social Media is all about implementation

3. Informative story about Facebook’s PR attack against Google

4. Are tech stocks popular again?

5. Costin Raiu talks about the security risks of Google’s new Chromebook.