Five Things We Learned From Sheryl Sandberg Last Night

16 April 2014 by

Sheryl Sandberg

Last night, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer and author of Lean In Sheryl Sandberg spoke to hundreds of UK graduates in London, for The Guardian's Women in Leadership event. Here’s five things we learned from her…

1. Don’t be afraid of criticism

When you stand up for something you believe in, there'll always be someone who disagrees. “I don’t believe anyone argues for real change in the world and doesn’t get criticised,” Sheryl said last night. She went on to say that basically, if you don’t face criticism, you’re doing it wrong. “Debate is not what I’m afraid of,” she said. “The reason I wrote [Lean In] is the lack of debate. My biggest fear is that we’ll fall right back into complacency.”

2. Don't feel bad for feeling bad

Some days you will have too much on your plate. You might feel guilty for letting someone down (or not being around enough at home if you're a parent), you might feel like a fraud at work occasionally and you might feel the need to be liked is overwhelming at times. It's OK to feel like that. How do we know? Because Sheryl herself feels it too.

"[I feel] all of those," said Sandberg. "I don't think we walk around and say: 'I feel really guilty I'm here today because my kid is sick at home.' But still I feel that all the time. I don't say it a lot.

“There are lots of times to this day that I feel like I shouldn’t be in the seat I’m in,” she said. “But if I were a man, I’d be saying ‘I can’t believe it took them so long to put me here’.”

3. When it comes to settling down, choose your partner carefully

"We will never get to real equality in our workplaces until we get to equality at home," Sheryl said last night. And she's right. For women to be free to work hard as men, some of the pressures need to come off at home. The answer, Sheryl says, is in the partner we choose. One who is willing to split chores and responsibilities in the home equally gives you more of a chance of succeeding at work.

"Women have two jobs and men have one”, she says. “What would happen if we had real partners?"

In her own home, Sheryl is still working on getting the balance. "I think Sheryl does more like 60 [per cent] and it's more like 40 for me," her husband, David Golberg, CEO of billion-dollar tech company SurveyMonkey, who was - YES - actually in the audience, explained.

"But it doesn't come easily and we have to work at it. We spend a lot of time with our schedules."


Speaking of her campaign to Ban Bossy - Sheryl says that we diminish ambition in young girls with negative language - she said, “Hilary [Clinton], ran for President. She was called bossy, and the other ‘B’ word,

too. But my favourite was when she was called ‘too ambitious’.

“Too ambitious? DUDE, she’s running for President!"

5. Speak out on behalf of other women, no matter how scary it is

It's never easy to put yourself out there - especially when you're staring directly up at the glass ceiling. But Sheryl - and every feminist, everywhere - agrees that we should be constantly standing up for other woman, and paving the way - however we can - to make the climb up the ladder easier for the next generation.

Sheryl was launched into becoming a role model for women when she spoke out at a TEDWomen talk in 2010, encouraging women to ‘own’ their ambition. Two years earlier, she’d made the move from her influential position at Google to work at Facebook. “It was scary,” she explained. “Most people advised me not to do it, as it would end my career. They said that people would notice I’m a woman. It’s not easy, but the status quo is just not OK.”



Listen to your peers, as well as your mentors

“My mentors told me that Google wouldn’t last and not to go to Facebook because no one really wanted to have friends online.” ’Nuff said.

Speak out and confront gender bias

“How do we actually change stereotypes? Explain that they exist. […] Anyone who thinks that [equality] is getting better and that gender bias isn’t self-perpetuating needs to open their eyes.”

Be ambitious

“We won’t close the leadership gap until we close the ambition gap.”

Know your online presence

“Your online presence matters just as much - if not more - than your CV.”




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