Leaning In with Sheryl Sandberg at Colgate’s Entrepreneur Weekend

Sheryl Sandberg was the star act for Colgate’s Entrepreneur Weekend this year. As the COO of Facebook, mother of two and now published author, she spoke to an impressive audience about the challenges that females face as they climb the career ladder. Her book, Lean In, explores these issues as well as provides proactive solutions through which women can achieve greater and more rewarding success.

Key Points

Leaders get to create the rules – it’s a simple fact of being in charge. If more women are leaders, more women will be making crucial decisions which both impact their business directly and speak for women around the globe.

Sandberg wants to ban the word “bossy” from the playground and replace it with the phrase “executive leadership skills”. Bossy is most commonly associated with little girls rather than boys. She explained this phenemonen to be an outdated concept: it’s no longer natural for boys (and men) to lead while their women watch passively. Sandberg believes that all women possess the capabilities to lead if only they choose to lean in and take more risks, whether those risks be professional or personal.

Taking credit and attributing one’s skills to the success of a project is key. Men are more likely to claim personal involvement in a successful situation whereas women will call on the powers of luck and the help from others. Sandberg understands that assertiveness can be a major factor in selecting employees for promotions and profitable project proposals, and shyness will prevent women from reaching top leadership positions.

A final point, one which received both criticism and applause, was that Sandberg advised choosing the right life partner to be the most crucial decision of one’s career. It’s understood that the right person, not just any husband or wife, will appreciate and understand each other’s goals, strengths and weaknesses. At this point a tangible sense of discomfort and dissension rose from the crowd. Many young women, including myself, feel enough pressure to find the right job, choose the right partner and attempt to complete these “Herculean Efforts” before the age of 30. Hearing one of the most current successful females in business mention this further emphasized the competitve pressures all female Colgate students face. Although I stand in agreement with Sandberg on this issue and am aware that my choice of husband will affect my career and parenting future, it’s clearly a touchy subject to address with so young women who are dedicated to their academic and career pursuits while also striving to uphold a bustling social agenda. 

We are all facing the bottom of the food chain upon graduation. Entry-level jobs redefined as “Associate”, “Assistant”, or “Intern” do not erase the likelihood of acquiring responsibilities and tasks similar to those of Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. Yet Sandberg cautioned against women who enter the workplace looking for an exit. Heeding Sandberg’s advice means making instinctual, sound decisions and to lean in, in whichever arena you may call the playing field.

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