Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

December 11, 2015.
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Sheryl Sandberg:
Why we have too few women leaders

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO.  Held positions at McKinsey and Google prior to joining Facebook. Former Chief of Staff at the U.S. Treasury. First woman on the Board of Facebook. Walt Disney Corporation Board member. Harvard MBA.

No. 10 on Fortune Magazine’s 2014 List of 50 Most Powerful Women.

Why are there so few women business leaders? According to Forbes magazine only 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs—and the percentage of women executives has remained flat at around 14% since 2010.

Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk attracted much attention across the business world and in the media, and partly prompted some ground breaking studies and other efforts focusing on women in business.

TEDWomen 2010  5.7M views on TED.com

One of these was Women in the Workplace, a research report produced by McKinsey and the Lean In organization which surveyed some 30,000 employees across a range of companies and industries.

The most recent update of the report was published in September 2015. The survey found that while 74% of companies reported that they are committed to diversity, less than 50% of their employees believe this is true.

You can find the full report here: http://womenintheworkplace.com/

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Source: Women in the Workplace 2015; McKinsey & LeanIn.org

In her talk Sheryl Sandberg makes reference to various studies on women in business, and here are some of the key findings she mentions:

Women face greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership.

Women systematically underestimate their own ability.

Men who are successful attribute their success to themselves, while successful women attribute their success to external factors.

Success and likeability are positively correlated for men, negatively correlated for women.

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Sandberg is the author of Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead (2013)—which remains an Amazon No.1 Best Seller.

Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk is another example of a speaker not using slides for her talk. Instead, note her extensive use of stories throughout her talk, illustrating key points, as well as humour and voice dynamics.

A talk well worth watching both for the importance of the topic in contemporary business—as well as for its presentation delivery.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.