Women’s Leadership Ambition Gap
Lean or March In?
Sheryl Sandberg perceives a women’s leadership ambition gap and she has a remedy for it. Sandberg is the well known COO of Facebook, and is ranked #10 on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women. At age 43, she is a multi-billonaire, a working spouse and mother of two children. In her book, “Lean In”, Sandberg describes a Leadership Ambition Gap to account for why women are sparsely represented in top leadership positions.
“Over the past ten years women hold only 14% of top executive positions, yet have earned over 50% of college degrees.”
Women’s Leadership Ambition Gap is defined as the inner obstacles women must overcome to reach higher levels of executive management. “The women’s revolution has stalled,” Sandberg asserts. Listen to her message of self-empowerment so that working women can exchange self-doubts for rock solid self-beliefs.
Sandberg has observed women’s inner obstacles to success as:
- Wanting to be liked rather than asserting a will to lead, unlike men.
- Believing success comes from luck rather than core skills, unlike men.
- Downplaying ambition after being labeled “bossy”, unlike men.
- “Most likely to succeed” is another phrase for most unlikely to get a date, unlike men.
- Negotiating for what she thinks she’s worth rather than what she can get, unlike men.
- Waiting to be called upon rather than actively pursuing opportunities, unlike men.
Certainly, I have observed such patterns throughout my professional career with my clients. Men more than women tend to identify with their skill set and can quickly articulate what they bring to the table. Women are less sure of their skill set and negotiate for what they think they are worth rather than what they can get. Worse, women tend to wait to be given a raise believing hard work will in itself secure a pay raise.
I have seen my client’s confidence increase the more they identify with their skills and hold a strong mindset and conviction that sounds like, “This is what I do, and I’m really good at it. This is what I know. This is the value added difference I bring to my work, my team, and to the bottom line.” Combined with this bedrock conviction, the negotiation process becomes much more about the discovery, or game of what one can get.
I don’t think Sandberg’s message is that women need to be like men in the workplace, nor need to be just like her. I think successful leadership is not a one-size-fits all for men or women. Successful leadership is a unique blend that is first and foremost grounded in a solid understanding of one’s personality, core values and passions, unique talents and business acumen, plus a compatible fit with one’s corporate role or venture. “No one size fits all….pursue your happiness and live the life that is right for you, ” says Jessica Herrin who started Stella and Dot from her living room and her company is now on track to make $1 billion by 2015.
Lean Or March In?
Herrin is hugely successful and very likable, unlike Sandberg’s premise that women become less likable with more success. Herrin blends a winning combination of uncompromising optimism and positivity, conscious alignment with her values and passions, and sharp business acumen. Similar to other women entrepreneurs who are Marching In rather than to Lean In, Herrin believes that the fastest way to the C-suite is for women to start their own companies and thus are creating the future pipeline for women in C-suite positions.
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