With the release of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, the role of women as leaders has been prominently in the news.
It seems that Sandberg is trying to start a movement; perhaps we could call it feminism 2.0? Her book is already topping both the Amazon and NY Times bestseller lists, showing that this is a topic many women (and a fair amount of men) are deeply interested in.
Sandberg recently fielded questions from women in a live event on her book’s Facebook page. “We need women to lead in every industry,” Sandberg wrote, replying to a question from a teacher. “Given that we are 50% of the population, we should have 50% of the leadership roles. … I think women need to reach for leadership opportunities that they want — and often, men reach to lead and women do not. We see that this starts as early as junior high when more boys than girls want to be their class President. So you should apply for the leadership roles — and encourage other women to as well!”
The fact is, there are still many industries in which women have yet to break the glass ceiling, and as Sandberg points out, in many cases the reasons are women’s own internal issues: our fears, limitations, "programming," upbringing, and closely held beliefs.
We’ve already tried becoming more like men to try and get ahead in a “man’s world,” but that can never really work because men and women are different in so many ways. And by the way, if you really believe that this is a “man’s world,” perhaps that’s the first closely held belief you need to start looking at!
Personally, I’d like to take all the differences that have been traditionally used as arguments against us, and flip them in our favor:
Our emotional makeup is different.
Our ambitions are frequently different.
Our perceptions of life and the world are different. And perhaps our inherent priorities are different as well.
What if our so-called weaknesses are really our strengths? And rather than trying to become more like men, we merely need to fully embrace our differences -- which can make us the leaders we would like to be ... on our own terms.
So the question on the table is how can we move ahead without giving up what makes us unique as women?
Sandberg has stimulated an interesting conversation; one that’s been simmering on a back-burner for too long.
Have you read her book, or do you intend to? Has it caused you to take a good look at your own ambitions (NOT a dirty word!), or perhaps your own desire to spread your wings as a leader? Do you know there is much more inside you, that you want to share with the world, but don’t quite know how?
Enthusiasm and inspiration are merely a starting point. If you do want more, if you do want to rise to the top of your particular industry, then how do you begin? Practical steps, and a well-laid-out plan are called for, aren’t they?
Because women’s needs in this area are somewhat different, I’ve written a book just for women that incorporates interviews with 30 highly successful women in a variety of fields: Career Magic: A Woman’s Guide to Reward & Recognition. I’d be honored if you’d add it to your reading list!
I hope this blog has whetted your appetite for more on the topic of women in leadership. In my next blog, I'll take a look at the importance of our mindset, and offer some strategies for success.