Facebook Exec On Why There Aren't Enough Female Leaders

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was doing a deal in an NYC private equity office when she had to take a bathroom break. Except no one knew where the women's bathroom was, because no one had ever asked for it.


Sandberg told that story in her recent TEDWomen talk, seen here, about why there are so few women at the top. (She's addressing the women who already know they want to stay in the workforce and attain a top job, not ones who have made other choices) Her explanations and subsequent advice won't shock anyone who's been paying attention to the discussion — men attributing their success to themselves, women to external factors, and so on — but it's good to hear it from someone who has genuine authority to talk about women's success in high-powered industries.

In a profile not long ago, The New York Times described the former Google exec as Mark Zuckerberg's "most valuable friend," and said she is "known for her interpersonal skills as much as for her sharp intellect."


The profile also contains an anecdote that corroborates Sandberg's contention in her talk that women hurt themselves by not outing their achievements. "As a Harvard undergraduate, she sat near the back of an economics class taught by [former Treasury Secretary Larry] Summers. He says he didn't pay much attention to her until she turned in the best midterm examination in her class - and then the best final." She went on to get her MBA at Harvard, too, and then become Summers' chief of staff at Treasury at the age of 29.

Sheryl Sandburg: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders [TED]
Related: Mark Zuckerberg's Most Valuable Friend [NYT]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter



I decided pretty early on that I didn't want my career to be a keystone of my life. I want work that I enjoy, but if I make a comfortable wage and never make vice president, I'll nevertheless be satisfied.

Listening to this fascinating lecture makes me simultaneously really happy that's been my decision and wanting to go out and change that decision in order to change the status quo.