Science of Self ™ Knowledge Centre

Why do we have so few Female Leaders

Mar 8, 2012

In this popular TED Talk, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions and has 3 core messages for women aiming for the C-Suite.

"Women are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world."

  • 190 Heads of state: 9 are women
  • Of all the people in parliament in the world: 13% are women
  • In corporate business C Level: 15-16%
  • Not-for-profit: 20%
  • The numbers have not moved since 2002
1. Sit at the table:
  • Women systematically underestimate their own abilities. Men attribute their success to themselves, while women attribute it to other external factors (someone helped them, they got lucky, it was the hard work).
  • 'Success' and 'Like-ability' are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women (i.e. there is a perception that successful woman are less likeable, unlike men, whose wealth and power makes them more likeable).
2. Make your partner a real partner:
  • If a woman and a man work full time, and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of house work and three times the amount of child care.
  • We need to make working in the home equally important for both genders.
3. Don't leave before you leave:
  • Don't make decisions too far in advance about leaving the workplace, and keep your foot on the gas pedal as long as possible.
It's a particularly interesting talk in light of the fact that Sheryl Sandberg is at the top of a notoriously male-dominated industry. For more on Sheryl, check out this feature article by the New Yorker: A Woman’s Place - Can Sheryl Sandberg upend Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture?

Topics: Leadership

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."


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