Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sheryl Sandberg on why there are so few female CEOs

Ben Parr summarized her talk:

"Women systematically underestimate their own abilities,” Sandberg stated before citing data that explained why. For example, men tend to cite themselves as the primary reason for success, while women tend to cite external factors. And 57% of men negotiate their first salary out of college, while only 7% of women do the same.

This is a frequently cited reason for why women are less successful than men in the professional world.  One thing that stood out to me about her talk was one of the first things she said: "...Let's start out by admitting that we're lucky.  We don't live in the world our mothers lived in, our grandmothers lived in, where career choices for women were so limited."

The world that our mothers lived in.  That's just one generation.  Sometimes I think in awe about the fact that my mother was alive when Kennedy was shot, when schools became desegregated, when we first landed on the moon, when abortion went from illegal to legal.  

The major civil rights victories that my generation takes for granted were only gained within the last generation.  That's not very long ago.  To think that it hasn't even been a century since people with whom I can immediately identify -- women, all women -- were not legally allowed to vote is sometimes a little overwhelming.  One of those losing-faith-in-humanity things.  And then to remember that, for many other people, there is no "gee, it's been only a generation since we were legally equal in some extra ways!"  They're still fighting.  And that makes me think that we're not as civilized as we think we are.  As long as there are still people fighting for justice, there is no real civility.  As long as we can say things like, "In, like, 30 years, we'll think of gay marriage like segregation in the 60's," we are not really civilized.  It's just proof that we still have a long way to go before we don't have to fight anymore.  And we should probably just admit it.  While we're always better off than we were, this is no place to slow down and get cozy.