By Lilli DeBode, guest blogger, senior at Kent Place School
Almost a month ago, COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, released her book “Lean in—Women, Work, and the will to lead.” In the past few weeks the author has received a lot of criticism; some say her book encourages women to change as opposed to encouraging society as a whole to change. Others say that her book only applies to a small group of elite women and her suggestions are simply unrealistic for the typical American woman. I say yes, her suggestions do focus on a very specific demographic of women, but they are extremely noteworthy and should be taken seriously.
In 2010 Sandberg gave a famous TED Talk on the [lack of] progress of women in the workforce. This video has been watched over two million times, and in just 15 minutes provides her female viewers with her three simple suggestions on how to achieve success in the workplace.
Her first point: “Sit at the Table.” Sandberg says that women systematically underestimate themselves while men often overestimate themselves. This is one of the key reasons there aren’t as many women as men in top corporate positions. When women are successful they attribute it to help from others, luck, or hard work. In addition, Sandberg brings up a study showing the salaries of Carnegie Mellon MBA graduates. In the study, women’s starting salaries were almost $4,000 less than those of their male peers. Why is this? Because only 7% of the women negotiated their salaries while 57% of the men asked for more money. Sandberg sums it up perfectly: “No one gets the promotion they don’t think they deserve.”
Her second point is very simple: “Make your partner a real partner.” In order for women to be successful in the workplace they need their partners to help out at home. Right now, full-time working women do twice as much housework and three times as much childcare as their male partners do. The ratio needs to be 50:50 if women are to have a shot at those promotions.
Finally her last point: “Don’t leave before you leave.” After interacting with many young women, Sandberg recognized a trend that is causing them to lower their aspirations. She found that long before they even have husbands, many young women start to minimize their career ambitions in preparation for the day that they have to leave to workforce to take care of their children. As a result, women pass up exciting career opportunities, thus making the idea of returning to work once they actually have children less appealing. In order to combat this premature settling, Sandberg urges young women to “Keep your foot on the gas pedal until the very day you need to leave.”