Sheryl Sandberg - Woman Empowered
One of the things which make Sheryl Sandberg a fascinating study in women’s empowerment is the fact that she leaves work for home at 5:30pm on the dot to be in time for dinner with her family at 6pm. This would not be as fascinating if she wasn’t the COO of Facebook, one of the most powerful companies in the world. The fact that Sandberg is a “juggler”, who manages a career, motherhood, family commitments and is also an extremely successful motivational speaker and author, is testimony to a belief expressed many times over in her best-selling book “Lean In”, which she speaks about the need for women everywhere to take a step forward by leaning forward in their professional and personal lives.
Hailed by the readers of The Huffington Post as being one of the Top 10 modern feminists in the world, Sheryl Sandberg was born into a Jewish family in 1969, and attended Harvard University in 1987. While she was there, she noticed a number of disparities between the self-evaluation of men as compared with women, and later included these observations in her book. Not immune to the views of her family, who insisted that she must marry a good man before it was “too late”; Sandberg met and married her first husband, and then quickly divorced. Distraught and looking to get away from the place of her failed marriage, she shifted from Washington to California and began afresh as part of McKinsey, later as part of Google, and eventually as COO of Facebook.
Throughout her professional journey, she continued to observe the many gender based trends which continued to permeate the workplace. For example, while she was working at Google and heavily pregnant, there was no reserved parking space for expectant women, which would greatly reduce the strain of walking and give them comfort. During another instance, she observed that women were less likely than men to consider themselves able to perform difficult tasks, or take leading roles in projects. In comparison, 66% men seemed to think they would make ideal leaders, and continuously aimed for promotions and perks. The women, she noted, followed the opposite pattern.
Another instance which is documented in her book, involves a business meeting at the Facebook office where all the women in the group chose to sit in the corner of the room while the men stood in the center; Sandberg took it upon herself to address the women and invited them to join the center but they politely refused. She later told them that they needed to be “participants” and not spectators, and mentioned that their choice to sit away from the group, rather than with it, was indicative of the same issue which women face in general; we are not directly involved in the participatory project, and that needs to change. This exchange brings forward her belief that women need to “sit at the table”.
In 2010, Sandberg gave a TED talk where she talked about how women were equally responsible for not holding significant leadership roles and mentioned the need to lean forward and “sit at the table” more. The talk garnered more than 2 million viewers and she was both lauded and criticized for suggesting that women show more initiative if they want professional and personal success.
Sandberg herself is honest about her own pitfalls and learning experiences in both her personal and professional life. She acknowledges that it is never easy to multi-task and expect to be absolutely successful in every arena, and insists that her objective is to facilitate the process of empowerment by letting women know that they can, in fact use her philosophy to improve their own lives. Being one of the mere 14% of women who hold top positions in the corporate sphere, and earning the distinction of being one of TIME’s 100 most influential people, not to mention a hefty paycheck, she is truly empowered in multiple spheres and appears to be the kind of empowerment icon this generation of women could look up to and aspire to be.