Ambitious young men believe that they are "awesome." Their female peers, says Facebook's COO in a new profile, need to do the same.
Women first made up half of graduating college seniors decades ago, yet they only hold about 15 percent of top corporate positions, a number that has not improved since 2002. Big tech companies Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon all have exactly zero female directors on their boards. Even though 2010 marked the first time ever that women held a majority of the nation's jobs (as Hanna Rosin describes in her much-discussed Atlantic piece), they are not rising to the very top.
In this week's New Yorker, Ken Auletta profiles one woman who has -- Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who is rumored to be on the "short list" for replacing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner should he step down. In the piece and in two widely viewed recent speeches, Sandberg says that women must do their part to correct the imbalance. Her call to young women: Step up your game. Or, as she puts it, "Lean in."
In a December talk cited by Auletta, Sandberg offers three pieces of advice: First, "sit at the table." Women, Sandberg says, "systematically underestimate their own abilities." They don't believe they deserve their success, attributing it to luck, help from others, or hard work. High-achieving men, in contrast, believe that they are "awesome." Women need to take credit for their accomplishments and assert themselves with confidence.