It has been quite a week for Sheryl Sandberg. The cover of TIME Magazine, an appearance on The Katie Couric Show, the launch of her online community to help empower women with LeanIn.org, a media tour that would tire out Madonna, and the release of her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. But somehow she managed—because time management is another one of her tremendous skills—to carve out some time to talk with Levo League about her book, her passions, and what her message really is.
On women’s leadership:
“Leadership is not a biological difference,” said Sandberg. “Women are uncomfortable with success and power.”
The purpose of Lean In and LeanIn.org is to make women’s leadership an openly discussed topic, because it is still very taboo, especially in corporate America. In the first 20 years of her career, said Sandberg, the word “woman” never came up.
“No one will say the word. If you bring it up in a meeting with your male boss he thinks you are either asking for special treatment or suing him.”
Ambition has a positive connotation for men and a negative one for women. Ambition is practically synonymous with the “b word” when it comes to women, and Sandberg wants to change that.
“Women can be great leaders and they can be great managers and I just want to work with more of them,” she said.
On Marissa Mayer:
When asked about Marissa Mayer, Sandberg said, “I really think no one knows what’s going on at Yahoo, so I really can’t speak to it at all. I think the real issue that’s going on with Marissa is there are too few women in leadership roles.” She stressed that the real issue is that every move a woman in a power seat makes takes on a “grandiose importance,” because there are so few women in power seats to begin with.
On femininity in the workplace:
It’s no joke that many women feel pressure to take on more masculine qualities when they work in male-dominated environments like finance or law. Sandberg said that, in terms of women being feminine at work, we have definitely progressed. In the 1980s we saw women literally trying to dress like men by wearing big power suits with square shoulders, but now we wear dresses with floral prints and statement jewelry. The bigger issue is “not affiliating female stereotypes with a lack of leadership.”
On what success with Lean In will mean to her:
Sheryl said success of the Lean In movement will not be measured by the number of books sold or “Lean In circles,” but by seeing more women at the top, where there’s currently so much stagnation, and by children not asking whether a woman can run for president, as her seven-year-old son asked her recently.
“This is personal,” she said. “This is about me not wanting other little girls to be called bossy.”
You go, girl.