Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Challenges Women to Be More Ambitious


By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0) In December, TEDtalks posted Why we have too few women leaders (video) by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, showing the world what a powerful, ambitious woman leader looks like.

This week, Sheryl delivered a powerhouse speech this time at Barnard's commencement. She reminded us that "women became 50% of the college graduates in this country in 1981, thirty years ago. Thirty years is plenty of time for those graduates to have gotten to the top of their industries, but we are nowhere close to 50% of the jobs at the top. That means that when the big decisions are made, the decisions that affect all of our worlds, we do not have an equal voice at that table." Sheryl challenged women to be more ambitious. She encouraged the young women to stay in the game -- "If all young women start to lean in, we can close the ambition gap right here, right now, if every single one of you leans in. Leadership belongs to those who take it. Leadership starts with you." She reminded women to "take a page from men and own their own success."

This is the same point Lesa Mitchell made in women entrepreneurs are trapped in glass walls -- that "womens’ startups under-perform on key measures of growth. Comparatively, few of them even grow to $1M per year in revenues. Very few build or hire on the kind of scale that can boost a region’s economy, let alone show up on the national radar screen." The takeaway? Think bigger than you currently do, then think even bigger, whether it's a bigger market opportunity or bigger scope.

"A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world."

She acknowledges that "the woman will do two times the amount of housework and three times the amount of childcare that her husband will do... It's a bit counterintuitive, but the most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is. If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further."

This rings especially true to entrepreneurs who work in overdrive, and to the women who are approaching or are in their childbearing years. Comedienne Amy Poehler devoted her Time 100 speech to the nannies of the world because they allow her and other working moms to "to get to do what you get to do because there are wonderful people helping at home," saying "on behalf of every sister and mother and person who stands in your kitchen and helps you love your child, I say thank you — and I celebrate you tonight."

To all the highly capable and driven women in the tech startup world -- Let's stay in the game, work hard and play hard. Make sure you have your bases covered and play to win.

What were your takeaways from the speech? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Angie Chang co-founded Women 2.0 in 2006 with Shaherose Charania. She currently serves as Editor-In-Chief of Women 2.0 and is working to mainstream women in entrepreneurship. Previously, Angie held roles in product management, web UI design, and entrepreneurship. In 2008, Angie launched Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners, asking that guys come as the "+1" for once. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.