Sheryl Sandberg: The Alpha Female Executive

Sheryl Sandberg


Facebook’s chief operating officer since 2008, Sheryl Sandberg has helped dramatically boost revenues at the social network. Sandberg, whose net worth is $1.62 billion, founded Lean In, a non-profit named after her bestselling book, to support women's empowerment. In April 2017, her second book, Option B, which focuses on grief and resilience, was published. One of the nation’s most influential female executives, the 43-year-old is on the Forbes list of “100 Most Powerful Women”.

Role model to women

In corporate America, women fall behind early and continue to lose ground with every step. Harvard-educated Sandberg is committed to empowering women to achieve their ambitions through Lean In. Her team runs a network of more than 33,000 circles in cities and on campuses in 150 countries. These circles are small peer groups who meet regularly to learn and grow together, and change lives. A circle can be a monthly roundtable at your home, a brown-bag lunch series at work, or even a virtual meet-up with people from around the world. “Our data says the great majority of people who join a circle will make a positive life change for themselves within six months. They get raises. They get new jobs. They run for office. They change the dynamics they have with their partners. Some of them drop their boyfriends and decide they want new boyfriends who will be more equal partners. Over and over, the circles give people strength,” explained Sandberg in an Inc interview. “The thing about women is you really get a lot of messages of “Why?” “Are you sure you want that job? Don’t you want kids one day?” I always ask an audience: “If you’re a man, please raise your hand if anyone’s ever said, ‘Should you be working?’” Never had a hand raised. Do you know how many times women are asked if they should be working? There’s this assumption that women can’t work and have families, which is an unfair assumption given that almost 70 percent of mothers must work to support their families.”

Sandberg also launched a campaign with celebrities like Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner and Condoleezza Rice. The aim was to ban the use of the word ‘bossy’ when referring to the fairer sex. Talk about girl power!

Women in Workplace

In partnership with McKinsey & Company, Lean In brought out the Women in the Workplace 2016, a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. More than 130 companies employing more than 4.6 million people shared their pipeline data and completed a survey of HR practices. In addition, 34,000 employees completed a survey designed to uncover their attitudes on gender, job satisfaction, ambition, and work-life issues. The study discovered that women experience an uneven playing field. Women get less access to the people and opportunities that advance careers and are disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions. These inequities appear to take a toll on women: They are less likely to think they have equal opportunities for growth and development and more likely to think their gender will play a role in missing out on a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead.

For every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted. Promotion rates for women lags those of men, and the disparity is the largest at the first step up to manager. As a result, far fewer women end up on the path to leadership. Very few women are in line to become CEO. By the time women reach the SVP level, they hold just 20 percent of line roles, and line roles lead more directly to the C-suite: In 2015, 90 percent of new CEOs in the S&P 500 were promoted or hired from line roles.

Lean In to Sandberg

Sandberg is vociferous in her declaration that “we need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.” To achieve this goal, Lean In organises annually public awareness campaigns on a topic (the importance of encouraging girls to lead, the crucial role men play in getting to equality, and the amazing things women accomplish when they support each other) that is critical to advancing women. The nonprofit also offers a growing library of free expert videos, discussion guides, and tips for women and their male allies. These materials help women build new skills and provide everyone with research-based recommendations for advancing gender equality at home and at work. Lean In has also teamed up with more than 900 corporate and nonprofit partners, reaching tens of millions of employees in over 90 countries. Partners actively participate in public awareness campaigns, share education materials with employees, and run successful Lean In Circles. All of this is making a difference as more women are taking the lead and more employees are talking openly about gender issues.

Sandberg is truly a role model to women of all ages. She is a lady who takes initiative and goes the extra mile to realize her vision. “Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do,” she once said. Sandberg takes her role as a mentor seriously. She openly criticized US President Donald Trump’s travel ban and anti-abortion measures. Her outspokenness on these issues coupled with her commitment to female empowerment gives this lady our vote of confidence.



Nithya Caleb | The Edge Blog

Photo credit: World Economic Forum


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