Sheryl Sandberg: So we leaned in … now what?

Pat Mitchell: Your first time back on the TEDWomen stage. Sheryl Sandberg: First time back. Nice to see everyone. It’s always so nice to look out and see so many women. It’s so not my regular experience,
as I know anyone else’s. PM: So when we first started talking about, maybe the subject wouldn’t be social media, which we assumed it would be, but
that you had very much on your mind the missing leadership positions, particularly
in the sector of technology and social media. But how did that evolve for you as a thought, and end up being the TED Talk that you gave? SS: So I was really scared to get on
this stage and talk about women, because I grew up in the business
world, as I think so many of us did. You never talk about being a woman, because
someone might notice that you’re a woman, right? They might notice. Or worse, if you say “woman,”
people on the other end of the table think you’re asking for special
treatment, or complaining. Or worse, about to sue them.
And so I went through — (Laughter) Right? I went through my entire business career, and never spoke about being a woman,
never spoke about it publicly. But I also had noticed that it wasn’t working. I came out of college over
20 years ago, and I thought that all of my peers were men and women,
all the people above me were all men, but that would change, because your generation had done such
an amazing job fighting for equality, equality was now ours for the taking. And it wasn’t. Because year after year, I was one of fewer and fewer, and now, often the only woman in a room. And I talked to a bunch of people about, should I give a speech at TEDWomen
about women, and they said, oh no, no. It will end your business career. You
cannot be a serious business executive and speak about being a woman.
You’ll never be taken seriously again. But fortunately, there were the few, the proud — like you — who told me I should give the speech, and I asked myself the question
Mark Zuckerberg might — the founder of Facebook and my boss — asks all of us, which is, what
would I do if I wasn’t afraid? And the answer to what would I do if I wasn’t
afraid is I would get on the TED stage, and talk about women, and leadership.
And I did, and survived. (Applause) PM: I would say, not only survived.
I’m thinking of that moment, Sheryl, when you and I were standing backstage
together, and you turned to me, and you told me a story. And I said — very last minute — you know,
you really should share that story. SS: Oh, yeah.
PM: What was that story? SS: Well, it’s an important part of the
journey. So I had — TEDWomen — the original one was in D.C. — so I live here,
so I had gotten on a plane the day before, and my daughter was three, she was
clinging to my leg: “Mommy, don’t go.” And Pat’s a friend, and so, not related
to the speech I was planning on giving, which was chock full of facts and
figures, and nothing personal, I told Pat the story. I said, well,
I’m having a hard day. Yesterday my daughter was clinging
to my leg, and “Don’t go.” And you looked at me and said,
you have to tell that story. I said, on the TED stage? Are you kidding? I’m going to get on a stage and admit
my daughter was clinging to my leg? And you said yes, because if you want to talk
about getting more women into leadership roles, you have to be honest about how hard it is. And I did. And I think that’s a really
important part of the journey. The same thing happened when I wrote my book.
I started writing the book. I wrote a first chapter, I thought it was fabulous. It was
chock-full of data and figures, I had three pages on matrilineal Maasai
tribes, and their sociological patterns. My husband read it and he was like, this
is like eating your Wheaties. (Laughter) No one — and I apologize to Wheaties if there’s
someone — no one, no one will read this book. And I realized through the process that I
had to be more honest and more open, and I had to tell my stories. My stories of still
not feeling as self-confident as I should, in many situations. My first and
failed marriage. Crying at work. Felling like I didn’t belong there,
feeling guilty to this day. And part of my journey, starting on this stage,
going to “Lean In,” going to the foundation, is all about being more open and
honest about those challenges, so that other women can be more open and honest, and all of us can work together towards real equality. PM: I think that one of the most
striking parts about the book, and in my opinion, one of the reasons it’s hit such
a nerve and is resonating around the world, is that you are personal in the book,
and that you do make it clear that, while you’ve observed some things that are
very important for other women to know, that you’ve had the same challenges
that many others of us have, as you faced the hurdles and the barriers and
possibly the people who don’t believe the same. So talk about that process: deciding
you’d go public with the private part, and then you would also put yourself in
the position of something of an expert on how to resolve those challenges. SS: After I did the TED Talk, what happened was — you know, I never really expected to write
a book, I’m not an author, I’m not a writer, and it was viewed a lot, and it really
started impacting people’s lives. I got this great — one of the first
letters I got was from a woman who said that she was offered a really big
promotion at work, and she turned it down, and she told her best friend she turned
it down, and her best friend said, you really need to watch this TED Talk. And so she watched this TED Talk, and she
went back the next day, she took the job, she went home, and she handed her
husband the grocery list. (Laughter) And she said, I can do this. And what really mattered to me — it wasn’t
only women in the corporate world, even though I did hear from a lot of
them, and it did impact a lot of them, it was also people of all different circumstances. There was a doctor I met who was an
attending physician at Johns Hopkins, and he said that until he saw my TED
Talk, it never really occurred to him that even though half the students in
his med school classes were women, they weren’t speaking as much as
the men as he did his rounds. So he started paying attention, and as he waited for
raised hands, he realized the men’s hands were up. So he started encouraging the
women to raise their hands more, and it still didn’t work. So he told everyone, no more
hand raising, I’m cold-calling. So he could call evenly on men and women.
And what he proved to himself was that the women knew the answers just as well or better, and he was able to go back
to them and tell them that. And then there was the woman, stay-at-home
mom, lives in a really difficult neighborhood, with not a great school, she said that TED
Talk — she’s never had a corporate job, but that TED Talk inspired her to go to her school
and fight for a better teacher for her child. And I guess it was part of was finding my own voice. And I realized that other women and
men could find their voice through it, which is why I went from the talk to the book. PM: And in the book, you not only found your
voice, which is clear and strong in the book, but you also share what you’ve learned — the experiences of other people in the lessons. And that’s what I’m thinking about
in terms of putting yourself in a — you became a sort of expert in how you lean in. So what did that feel like, and
become like in your life? To launch not just a book, not just
a best-selling, best-viewed talk, but a movement, where people began to
literally describe their actions at work as, I’m leaning in. SS: I mean, I’m grateful, I’m honored,
I’m happy, and it’s the very beginning. So I don’t know if I’m an expert, or if anyone is
an expert. I certainly have done a lot of research. I have read every study, I have
pored over the materials, and the lessons are very clear.
Because here’s what we know: What we know is that stereotypes are holding women
back from leadership roles all over the world. It’s so striking. “Lean In” is very global,
I’ve been all over the world, talking about it, and — cultures are so different. Even within our own country, to Japan,
to Korea, to China, to Asia, Europe, they’re so different. Except for one thing: gender. All over the world, no matter what our cultures are, we think men should be strong,
assertive, aggressive, have voice; we think women should speak
when spoken to, help others. Now we have, all over the world, women are called “bossy.”
There is a word for “bossy,” for little girls, in every language there’s one. It’s a word that’s pretty much not used for little boys, because if a little boy leads,
there’s no negative word for it, it’s expected. But if a little girl leads, she’s bossy. Now I know there aren’t a lot of
men here, but bear with me. If you’re a man, you’ll have
to represent your gender. Please raise your hand if you’ve been
told you’re too aggressive at work. (Laughter) There’s always a few, it runs about
five percent. Okay, get ready, gentlemen. If you’re a woman, please raise your hand if you’ve
ever been told you’re too aggressive at work. (Laughter) That is what audiences have
said in every country in the world, and it’s deeply supported by the data. Now, do we think women are more
aggressive than men? Of course not. It’s just that we judge them through a different lens, and a lot of the character traits that you must
exhibit to perform at work, to get results, to lead, are ones that we think, in a man, he’s a boss, and in a woman, she’s bossy. And the good news about this is that we
can change this by acknowledging it. One of the happiest moments
I had in this whole journey is, after the book came out, I stood on a stage
with John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco. He read the book. He stood on a stage with me, he
invited me in front of his whole management team, men and women, and he said, I thought we
were good at this. I thought I was good at this. And then I read this book, and I
realized that we — my company — we have called all of our
senior women too aggressive, and I’m standing on this stage, and I’m sorry. And I want you to know we’re
never going to do it again. PM: Can we send that to a lot of other
people that we know? (Applause) SS: And so John is doing that because
he believes it’s good for his company, and so this kind of acknowledgement
of these biases can change it. And so next time you all see
someone call a little girl “bossy,” you walk right up to that person,
big smile, and you say, “That little girl’s not bossy. That little girl has
executive leadership skills.” (Laughter) PM: I know that’s what you’re telling your daughter.
SS: Absolutely. PM: And you did focus in the book — and
the reason, as you said, in writing it, was to create a dialogue about this. I mean, let’s just put it out there,
face the fact that women are — in a time when we have more open
doors, and more opportunities — are still not getting to the leadership positions. So in the months that have come since the book, in which “Lean In” focused on that and said, here are some of the challenges that remain, and
many of them we have to own within ourselves and look at ourselves. What has changed? Have you seen changes? SS: Well, there’s certainly more
dialogue, which is great. But what really matters to me,
and I think all of us, is action. So everywhere I go, CEOs,
they’re mostly men, say to me, you’re costing me so much money because all the women want to
be paid as much as the men. And to them I say, I’m not sorry at all. (Laughter) At all. I mean, the women should
be paid as much as the men. Everywhere I go, women tell me they ask for raises. Everywhere I go, women say they’re getting
better relationships with their spouses, asking for more help at home, asking for the
promotions they should be getting at work, and importantly, believing it
themselves. Even little things. One of the governors of one of the states told me
that he didn’t realize that more women were, in fact, literally sitting on the side
of the room, which they are, and now he made a rule that all the women
on his staff need to sit at the table. The foundation I started along
with the book “Lean In” helps women, or men, start circles — small groups, it can be 10, it can be however many
you want, which meet once a month. I would have hoped that by now, we’d have
about 500 circles. That would’ve been great. You know, 500 times roughly 10. There are over 12,000 circles
in 50 countries in the world. PM: Wow, that’s amazing. SS: And these are people who
are meeting every single month. I met one of them, I was in Beijing. A group of women, they’re all about 29 or 30,
they started the first Lean In circle in Beijing, several of them grew up in very poor, rural China. These women are 29, they are told by
their society that they are “left over,” because they are not yet married, and the process of coming together
once a month at a meeting is helping them define who they are for themselves. What they want in their careers. The
kind of partners they want, if at all. I looked at them, we went around
and introduced ourselves, and they all said their names
and where they’re from, and I said, I’m Sheryl Sandberg,
and this was my dream. And I kind of just started crying. Right, which, I admit, I do. Right?
I’ve talked about it before. But the fact that a woman so far away out in
the world, who grew up in a rural village, who’s being told to marry someone
she doesn’t want to marry, can now go meet once a month with
a group of people and refuse that, and find life on her own terms. That’s the kind of change we have to hope for. PM: Have you been surprised by
the global nature of the message? Because I think when the book first
came out, many people thought, well, this is a really important handbook
for young women on their way up. They need to look at this, anticipate
the barriers, and recognize them, put them out in the open, have the dialogue about it, but that it’s really for women who are that.
Doing that. Pursuing the corporate world. And yet the book is being read, as you
say, in rural and developing countries. What part of that has surprised you, and
perhaps led to a new perspective on your part? SS: The book is about self-confidence,
and about equality. And it turns out, everywhere in the world,
women need more self-confidence, because the world tells us we’re not equal to men. Everywhere in the world, we live in
a world where the men get “and,” and women get “or.” I’ve never met a man who’s been
asked how he does it all. (Laughter) Again, I’m going to turn to the men in the audience: Please raise your hand if you’ve
been asked, how do you do it all? (Laughter) Men only. Women, women. Please raise your hand
if you’ve been asked how you do it all? We assume men can do it all,
slash — have jobs and children. We assume women can’t, and that’s ridiculous, because the great majority of women everywhere
in the world, including the United States, work full time and have children. And I think people don’t fully understand
how broad the message is. There is a circle that’s been started
for rescued sex workers in Miami. They’re using “Lean In” to help
people make the transition back to what would be a fair life, really rescuing
them from their pimps, and using it. There are dress-for-success groups
in Texas which are using the book, for women who have never been to college. And we know there are groups
all the way to Ethiopia. And so these messages of equality — of how women
are told they can’t have what men can have — how we assume that leadership is for men,
how we assume that voice is for men, these affect all of us, and I
think they are very universal. And it’s part of what TEDWomen does. It unites all of us in a cause we have to believe in, which is more women, more voice, more equality. PM: If you were invited now to
make another TEDWomen talk, what would you say that is a result
of this experience, for you personally, and what you’ve learned about women, and men, as you’ve made this journey? SS: I think I would say — I tried to say this strongly, but I think I can say it more strongly — I want to say that the status quo is not enough. That it’s not good enough, that it’s
not changing quickly enough. Since I gave my TED Talk and published my book,
another year of data came out from the U.S. Census. And you know what we found? No movement in the wage gap
for women in the United States. Seventy-seven cents to the dollar. If you are a black woman, 64 cents. If you are a Latina, we’re at 54 cents. Do you know when the last
time those numbers went up? 2002. We are stagnating, we are
stagnating in so many ways. And I think we are not really being honest about that, for so many reasons. It’s so
hard to talk about gender. We shy away from the word “feminist,”
a word I really think we need to embrace. We have to get rid of the
word bossy and bring back — (Applause) I think I would say in a louder voice,
we need to get rid of the word “bossy” and bring back the word “feminist,”
because we need it. (Applause) PM: And we all need to do a lot more leaning in. SS: A lot more leaning in. PM: Thank you, Sheryl. Thanks for leaning in and saying yes. SS: Thank you. (Applause)

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