Sheryl Sandberg Gives TedWomen Talk on Why So Few Women in Leadership Positions

I came across an article written Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University called “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” when I saw the name of Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg. Anne-Marie Slaughter had referenced her TedTalk and I was interested in hearing what she had to say about why there are so few women in leadership positions today. The talk is very inspiring and offers a strong message to women to stay in the labor force, even with the difficulties of having children. One of the most interesting parts Sheryl talks about is the study that a researcher at Colombia University implemented [7:33-8:58]. Essentially, he took the case of Heidi Rosen, who was a very accomplished women, and changed her name on the case to say the name Howard. It shows that when students had to choose who to work for, given that Heidi and Howard each had the same qualifications, and the fact that Howard didn’t even exist, Howard was chosen as the person they wanted to work for. Heidi seemed “too selfish, assertive, and highly political.” It’s so interesting to see the bias that still exists today in the 21st century. Perceptions have a powerful impact into how we think and and act and this “belief barrier” that Heidi is seen as “selfish, assertive, political,” has implications that have a huge impact on women and their ability to progress through all levels of society. While America loves assertive and dominant men as leaders, if women possess such qualities, they are seen and depicted in a negative light. It’s not fair and shows how gender stereotypes still persist in our society today.

Furthermore, I think that Anne-Marie Slaughter is right in her article when she states that in this day and age, women just really can’t seem to have it all. She talks about how the company culture in America is “always on,” as a mode of working. She talks about how to be in a senior position, “it is expected that you be available more than five days a week… and available 24-7 with no visible caring responsibilities.” This has made it difficult for women to reach top leadership roles. In fact, her research shows that women have been having kids in their late 30’s or choosing to freeze their eggs because they do not want to lose out on promotions or be forgotten when they are on maternity leave. The work culture in America does not allow for an even balance between being a mother and being in the workforce as I have mentioned in my Nordic Countries Vs. USA blog.

I think that if women want to have a family, then they should have one whenever they want, and not have to put that on hold because of career choices. I think that they should be able to have a family and still have the career they desire. Anne-Marie Slaughter addresses that if more women could “strike this balance” then there would be more women in leadership positions, yet we still live in a society where we believe that good mothers are always with their children. Of course, Anne and Sheryl would have to disagree with this since they are both working mothers who are very successful and powerful women, but they do admit that it is difficult to balance work and family life.

Here is a link to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article on “Why Women Can’t Have It All,” it is a very interesting read! http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/6/

Lorna

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