In less than a month, “Lean In” has gone from being an abstract concept of getting ahead at work to a full-fledged movement for a more balanced, unbiased workforce—not just for women, but for all people. This movement of Leaning In has swept the nation in a firestorm of turning the tables, righting the wrongs, and taking charge of our own professional futures, whatever they may be.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has been the driving force behind Leaning In. Based on her own past experiences and observations in her successful career, Sandberg shared with Levo at an exclusive, live Office Hours yesterday, her advice encouraging Gen Y to make the much-needed changes in executive hierarchy.
“How many of you have ever said, ‘I’m going to be CEO of the company I work for’?” Sandberg asked the eager audience. “Stand up if you have.” A few people gingerly rose from their chairs. The rest remained seated.
This kind of response, said Sandberg, isn’t out of the ordinary. For better or for worse, men still run the world right now. Fewer than 20 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and that number is even lower in the United States. Progress has stalled for women in charge; women comprise just 14 percent of the executive-level jobs. And it’s been that way for nearly 10 years.
Looking at the numbers, it’s almost unfathomable as to why more companies aren’t electing women to positions of leadership. Studies have shown that that there is a strong, positive correlation between the success of a company and the number of women in leadership. And when women work, the whole family is happier. Households that are more balanced with parents both working and contributing at home raise children who benefit from the involvement of both parents, not just one.
There are three main reasons, Sandberg says, as to why some people still remained seated when asked if they ever wanted to be the CEOs of their companies. Some may feel they don’t have the skills to be CEO. Compared to men, women don’t own their successes as often. Some may feel that striving for that kind of ambition—to be CEO—is distasteful, or embarrassing. Some may feel that when the time comes to have kids they’ll want to be good parents, but they how can they if they’re CEOs?
Sandberg emphasized that there isn’t one ambition for every person, but men tend to say “yes” to wanting to be in charge more than women do, and this presents an enormous leadership ambition gap. This, she said, is exactly why it’s so important to Lean In. Start out strong and high, don’t lean back. Speak your opinion. Raise your hand. And stand up to your ambitions, whatever they may be.