Women’s History Month 2012: Sheryl Sandberg

If you’re anything like me, you spend a considerable amount of time on Facebook. For a long time I didn’t give any real thought about the people who were helping to lead the social media behemoth. All I knew was that Mark Zuckerbergwas the CEO. I didn’t need to know anything else…right? In my head I envisioned a bunch of 20-something white guys, all computer programmers, partying it up at the Facebook campus over in Menlo Park.

A couple of years ago, while watching an online TED talk, I saw a talk that fundamentally changed the way I viewed women in the workforce – and I’m not really talking about wage-earners…I’m talking about high-level executive women. The speaker was a woman who commanded the stage, had a real presence to her, and yet, I had no idea who this woman was.

Sheryl Sandberg.

Often when I don’t know a famous female figure I resort to this banal mental place of trying to think about her existence in relationship to a man. In her case I thought “must be Andy Sandberg’s wife” only to realize that Andy Sandberg isn’t Sandberg at all…but I digress. Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operations Officer for a multi-billion dollar company that shows no signs of slowing down. She is revered by everyone in her field. She is smart, quick-witted and has a vested interest in leveling the gendered playing field at the top of organizations.

Her talk taught me many things but for this post I’ll be brief – no matter how ‘good’ of a feminist I am, just willing away the glass ceiling will not work. Working my way into positions of power so I alter the policies of the workplace will not work (alone.) What works is when I urge the women around me to ask for leadership roles, when I constantly nag them to speak their minds, when they become empowered to create their own change. When it comes to issues like these I take them rather personally because I’m the kind of men Sandberg references in her talk, I raise my hand incessantly, I speak up when I want to, I feel empowered to say and do what I feel in important. That is a privilege.

Sandberg has taught me that as I continue to develop my leadership and my presence in the workplace I must put my ego aside to ensure equity for those around me. That’s a lesson I’ll never forget.

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