Fairly recently I listened to a TED talk by COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, where she lists several very discouraging statistics that are not favorable for women who want to have it all: a functional family and a stellar career, especially those who don’t just want a career but an executive career. One statistic in particular that she mentions in her talk and really stood out to me was from a group of married senior managers who were surveyed in the study 2/3 of the men had children and only 1/3 of the women had children…not pointing in favor of being able to have a senior level management position and a family at the same. A little after I had seen this TED talk I found a blog post that called out some not so favorable statistics for women’s career success after having a family. However, like the TED talk, this blog post also calls out some great pointers to follow in order to not become part of these statistics and still have it all if you so choose to do so.
A point that Sandberg mentions in her talk that I found extremely true and sadly enough admit to doing, is not having a seat at the table. The story she tells about the exam with her roommate and brother and after they are done the two females talk about how they wish they could’ve done better on XYZ of the exam and then her brother says he got the best grade out of the class, shows a classic illustration of a huge difference between women and men. Men have that self-confidence even when they are a little bit of the underdog, they don’t show it, think it, or act like. Then when you look at the women, even if they are the front runner, they lack that confidence in their abilities, they doubt themselves, and even if they achieve something critical they don’t attribute it to themselves, they give credit to others or make up an excuse that they just worked hard or it was just a fluke and they got lucky. Some women may be the exception and do not do this, but I know from personal experience, I am guilty as charged. However, as I’ve matured and developed more into my professional life I have been much more aware of the downfall of women doing this and with the research I’ve done on this topic, I can firmly state this will no longer be a guilty verdict for me.
One of Sandberg’s points to avoid becoming part of the statistics stated at the top of this post, is to “sit at the table”. This means, you need to believe in your abilities, your knowledge, your worth, and not shy away from taking a seat at the table regardless if you feel uncomfortable at first. Another point that I found valuable from the blog post I read on this topic stated although there are many stats out there you should ignore, there are a couple you should listen to such as, “Numerous studies now show that more women in leadership positions, measurably help a company’s performance and increase group intelligence.” With both of these points in mind I know that women can easily be entirely too self-critical and doubt their abilities far beyond the point they ever should be…however, one nice thing about seeing all of these daunting statistics is exactly just that, the power of knowing.
I now know that in order for me to not follow the path into these statistics of falling out of a high power career path because I want to have it all…I need to embrace my abilities and show my self-confidence at the next opportunity I get to take that highly coveted seat at the table the next time I find myself staring a crowded board room.