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Reflections on Her 2010 TEDTalk


Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has emerged as the most prominent name in the business sector for gender equality since she delivered, in late 2010, a TEDTalk on why we have so few female leaders. Last month, Sandberg returned to the TED stage to chat with journalist Pat Mitchell about the global reaction, what she's learned, and her thoughts on becoming a central figure in the movement for equality.

"Sheryl Sandberg: So we leaned in ... now what?"

Some Key Points:

  • Sandberg shares that she had never spoken about being a woman in business during her entire career until the TEDTalk because it was a risky topic and was warned before giving her talk that it could seriously jeopardise her career.
  • Initially she wanted to just stick to facts and figures in the TEDTalk and in the book Lean In, but discovered that she needed to tell her own story and talk about very personal challenges so that people could connect with her.
  • One of the first inspiring letters she got was from a woman who had turned down a big promotion but after seeing the TEDTalk was inspired to go back and take the promotion and then "hand her husband the grocery list."
  • Sandberg shares a story about a doctor, who, until seeing the TEDTalk hadn't noticed that the female med-school students weren't speaking as much as the men when he did his rounds. So he started calling on the woman as much as the men and he found that they knew the answers just as well or better than the men.
  • The word bossy exists in nearly every language as a negative word to describe women who are assertive, but it's seen as a positive characteristic for men. Women are perceived as being "aggressive" when they behave in the same way as men.
  • Sandberg suggests that we tend to judge people through the lens of Male = boss. Female = bossy. We can change things by acknowledging these biases.
  • The CEO of Cisco apologised to his staff for calling all of their senior women too aggressive as a result of seeing the talk.
  • Sandberg suggests that when you see someone call a little girl bossy, you walk right up to that person with a big smile and say, "That little girl's not bossy; that little girl has executive leadership skills."
  • Sandberg started a foundation that helps women start "circles," which are small, supportive groups that meet every month. There are over 12,000 circles in 50 countries.
  • Sandberg's book, Lean In, is about two core things: self-confidence and equality.
  • Sandberg argues that dialogue is good but action is better. She wants a lot more progress to happen. Sandberg is concerned that things are not changing quickly enough. The pay gap for women is still 77c to the $1 and hasn't budged since 2002.
  • Sandberg would like to get rid of the word bossy and bring back the word feminist.
Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."

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