Easy as 1-2-3? Sheryl Sandberg thinks so.

Sheryl Sandberg is Mark Zuckerberg’s second-in-command.  Yes, that Mark Zuckerberg.  Sheryl is Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, and since joining the social network giant in 2008, has forged a strong partnership with its elusive founder and made a name for herself both online and off amongst techies and businesspeople alike.  Sheryl is also a strong advocate for women empowerment, particularly in the workplace.  Her talk at TED in 2010 about why we have too few women leaders comes up as one of the first three results on Google when you search for her. The clip is about 15 minutes long, and in it you’ll see a polished, well-spoken, commanding woman who is obviously the envy of the crowd she’s addressing.  When Sheryl Sandberg talks, people listen.  At TED, Sheryl discusses a problem – women are not at the top of any career sector, from technology to non-profit, and haven’t been for a while.  How do we change this?  She breaks it down to three pieces of advice:

1)     Sit at the table.  Women systematically underestimate themselves and their abilities, and tend to attribute success to external factors for which they are not responsible.  This translates to women standing off to the side and purposely not joining the guys at the table, even though they probably belong there, discussing deals, proposing ideas and taking credit for results.  “No one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side,” Sheryl says.  So, own your success – sit at the table!

2)     Make your partner your real partner.  In couples where both partners have full-time jobs, women tend to perform a disproportionate amount of housework and child care.  Basically, we’re trying to equalize things in the workplace, but we haven’t yet equalized things at home.  Home life duties need to fall to both partners, and it has to be valued – no matter who is doing the work.

3)     Don’t leave before you leave.  Women who are thinking about the next big thing in their lives get trapped in a mindset that makes them forget about the present.  Sheryl advises to keep your foot on the gas pedal all the time.  Keep engaging, keep learning, and keep challenging yourself – up until you move on to the next chapter.

What I loved about Sheryl’s talk at TED is that she addresses a very real, very big issue – but offers us small, doable chunks of guidance that, when done one at a time, or in baby steps, can have significant, sizeable impact.  Not enough women in leadership positions?  How can I – one woman – affect any kind of change to shift this statistic?  Well, I personally can start by saying a simple “thank you” at my department meetings when I’m complimented on the success of a major project.  I always say “it was a team effort and I just worked with some great people.”  I can also quit beginning some of my sentences with “This may have been done before, and it might sound kind of dumb, but here’s my idea.”

Do you, dear YWiB-ers, agree with Sheryl’s tips and tricks?  Is it that easy?  Can we change the way things are by employing her three tactics outlined at TED?  What’s something you can do to help move women onward and upward?

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