Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

I've watched this TEDTalk video four times now and the same thing keeps happening. I watch it, silently acknowledging how lucky I am to live in a world where more work/life options are available to moms than ever before, then move on to the next task at hand. Something nags at me but I power through my to-do list: draft that marketing plan, review another candidate's resume, put the clothes in the dryer. But something in Sheryl Sandberg's presentation keeps haunting me and making me watch it again.

Why is it that out of 190 Head's of State in the world, only 9 are women? That out of all the people in parliament in the world, only 13% are women? Or of C-level positions (including Board seats) in the corporate world, only 15% are women and the numbers haven't changed since 2002 and are actually declining?

Sandberg (COO of Facebook) suggests that its because most women struggling with balancing careers and family end up giving one of them up. And what they tend to give up is their career. She presents her views with no judgment, pretense, or hint of elitism. I think her goal is simply to point out how the statistics are vastly different than for men.

What impacted me the most is something she said that I've notice myself over and over in the tech industry and throughout my career. We women systematically underestimate our capabilities, undervalue our achievements, and under-negotiate our worth. She also points out stats that show "likability and success" are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.

To me, Sandberg's message is one of awareness, not one meant to blame or incite. We need more women sitting at the table, fighting for their worth, and teaching their employees, co-workers, and daughters to be confident in their accomplishments. If you struggle with this, find someone you look up to and ask for support. If you're already there, make yourself available to others and maybe we'll start to see some change!


Jon Wade said...

Maybe it is simply that men are generally more power hungry and want to be leaders? There are certainly women in power, remember Maggie Thatcher for starters, and the Australian PM is female. It could just be a numbers game in many countries, and that men are simply more aggressive in their approach to gaining these positions.

Holly said...

Jon, I think you are right. As a gender, men tend to be more assertive and confident when it comes to business and achievement. Not that there aren't great women leaders (as you pointed out). There's a whole fascinating conversation in there about what makes men and women tick and our social and psychological differences (i.e. women as nurturers and peace-keepers and men as conquerors). Would be a fun chat!

Kalani said...

Thank you for posting this. I found this to be an honest look at our society. I also want to say, I love your blog! Always full of insightful and interesting posts.

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