February 8, 2012
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Discusses Women Lagging Behind Men in Business
When women are outstanding, they are incredible! Look at Facebook’s CEO, Sheryl Sandberg. The highest-paid executive at Facebook, her salary of almost $31 million shows she is one of the highest paid self-made women executives. When her options on a further 38.1m shares vest over the next five years, in addition to the 1.9m shares she already has in Facebook she will be one of the richest women in the world.
The 42-year-old Sandberg joined Facebook from Google in 2008 after she met Mark Zuckerberg at a party then at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. After she climbed on board the Facebook train, she has revamped it into a vital, vibrant and determined business enterprise. Would Facebook have moved as smoothly to the company’s IPO filing last week without Sheryl Sandberg’s guidance? Not likely. In its S-1 filing, she is credited with “growing revenue, building commercial and developer relationships” and apart from Mr Zuckerberg, she is the only other person named as “key personnel.” Accordingly she and Zuckerberg have the power to significantly impact Facebook is they jumped ship.
So when Ms. Sandberg was speaking in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum about women in key positions in the business world, her remarks were well received and acknowledged. Among some of the points she made concerned inequalities and double standards. She discussed the “ambition gap” which impedes women from childhood all the way to corporate boardrooms.
“We reward men for being leaders, for being assertive, for taking risks, for being competitive,” she told a panel on the future of women in business. “(But) we teach women as young as 4 (years old) to lay back, be communal. We need our girls to be ambitious to achieve in the workforce.”
Her point is well taken When you receive the prospectus of the companies you’ve invested in, especially American corporations, check members of the boards. Usually, there is one black man and one woman. Rarely, are there more than one of each. The predominance is still white men, however, it is improving. Just 11.3 percent of the Fortune 500 companies had male-only boards last year, according to Catalyst, a New York based nonprofit that researches women and business issues.
Actually, at Facebook there are no women on the board. Google, Inc. and Linkedin Corp. have at least one female director. Of course, the irony is that Facebook’s 800 million users are mostly women, so Sandberg’s comments were quite telling and maybe indirectly directed toward her own company.
Of the Fortune 500 for last year, only 11.3 percent had male-only boards, according to Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit that researches women and business issues.
“We’re long past having to defend or explain why women should be on boards, given all the data that shows how companies with female as well as male directors perform better,” said Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corp. and a director at Johnson & Johnson Co., Target Corp. and Washington Post Co.
So why aren’t there more women in top positions and board rooms? Psychology, old boys network, a woman’s needs, the reasons are as variable as the women believing them. However, we must remember for centuries, women did not take a dominant role in business; their role was in the home raising children because there were no labor saving devices to rescue them like there are today. Only since the last century have women begun to make inroads and begun to overthrow their own self-limiting shackles. It takes time.
Sandberg indicates the psychology of women bosses as problematic; men in corporate settings are generally viewed as more likeable as they achieve more. Women achievers are perceived as less friendly, less likeable as their accomplishments mount. (They are often referred to as B—-es.) Oftentimes, though men do this as well, women stab each other in the competitive back, especially women whose ambitions have died and who will never get beyond the lower rungs. Competition from colleagues at top levels is expected and can be dealt with and understood. But there is a lot of jealousy and undermining from lower level employees.
California-based author and branding expert Samantha Ettus was positive about Sandberg’s remarks. “She has an incredibly wide and expansive platform to deliver the message. As parents it’s easy to forget that the messages we give our kids as young as toddlers shape their futures.”
Paulette Senior, chief operating officer of YWCA Canada, discussed how the double standards of role pressure, women bosses as less friendly, create stresses for female executives their male counterparts never face.
“It becomes tiring and draining because it is always conscious,” Senior said. “Women in leadership needs to become more of a norm. I’ve trained myself to see myself in a leadership role.”
Sandberg pointed out in the panel discussion that even in couples where both partners work full-time jobs, a disproportionate amount of cleaning, cooking and other house related activities fall to the women. “We try to equalize things in the workplace (but) we haven’t equalized things at home,” said Sandberg. Clearly, gender roles still abide and are hard pressed to disappear.
According to Susan Stautberg, co-founder of New York-based Women Corporate Directors, as Facebook prepares to raise $5 billion (U.S.) in an initial public offering, the composition of its all-male board shows huge problems with its business strategy. Stautberg’s organization promotes female board membership.
“It doesn’t make sense for a company that claims to be so forward looking to not have any women directors. If they just have an old boy’s network in the boardroom, they won’t have access to diverse ideas and strategies.”
Facebook, which began eight years ago in a Harvard University dorm room, had sales of $3.7 billion (U.S.) in 2011. Sandberg’s contributions have proved their weight in that “gold.”
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