Thursday, November 10, 2011

GHC: Thursday Keynote Sheryl Sandberg

Our keynote speaker is Sheryl Sandberg, from Facebook.

Sheryl Sandberg has the tough balancing act between providing connections and protecting privacy. Best career advice she ever got came from Eric Schmidt, after she was leaving government and entering industry, and he offered her a position as general manager of Google. To Sandberg, that GM position was nothing, and she didn't want it. Schmidt tolder her "Stop being an idiot, all that matters is growth. If you go to a comapany that is growing, it doesn't matter what you're doing."

In the US, we have a huge unemployment rate, with fears that this is not a temporary problem, but Sandberg doesn't see this in tech. She said every technology firm she knows is hiring and growing. Technology jobs are the exception.

Sandberg admits that she's not a computer scientist, not even very technical, but she is a woman, so finally decided she felt qualified to do the keynote at Grace Hopper. She said she would be better at her job if she were more technical, and doesn't think that someone could do her job in the future unless they were technical.

STEM jobs pay more across the board, but women still only make 86 cents per dollar for the same job, compared to men with the same qualifications.

In order to have leaders in the future, we need more women to join STEM careers. But, in order to do that, we need to attract them to the programs and make sure they stay in. This has been accomplished at Harvey Mudd - gone from 12% women in CS to %40.

But, we're losing ground in leadership roles. Women are not getting promoted, women are losing seats in congress.

Seventy percent of the people in poverty are women. Women are still the property of their husbands. This type of thing just cannot go on.

Sandberg has 5 pieces of advice for staying ina career in CS and in a career in
general.

1. Believe in yourself

The best talk she'd ever attended was "Feeling like a Fraud" (Imposter Syndrome, now). When she mentioned it to male colleagues, they didn't get why it would be interesting. Men, time and time again, overestimate their achievements - women undervalue. Men attribute success to themselves. Women, to working hard, help from others, and being lucky.

Raise your hand, even when you're not sure you can do it - because there's a man next to you that is raising his, and he's not necessarily anymore qualified then you are.

You need to sit at the table, or opportunities pass you by.

When Sandberg gave this talk at Facebook, she said she had time for two more questions as they were short on time. Later, a woman came by her office and said she learned something. Sandberg felt pretty awesome, so asked what it was. The employee said, "I learned to keep my hand up". Huh? Well, Sandberg said she'd only take 2 more questions - so after the second question was asked, all the women put their hands down. Because there wouldn't be anymore questions. But, that's not what actually happened - Sandberg continued to take more questions - from the men. Several more.

Sandberg noted that if she didn't notice this, as a woman while giving this talk, how could we possibly expect our peers, managers, leaders to notice us if we aren't raising our hands?

2. Dream big

We have an achievement gap - until we close this gap, we won't have more women in these top fields. As men get more successful, men and women like them more. As women get more successful, men and women like them less! Huh? So, we, as humans, want to be liked. so may not be as ambitious - may not seek those top positions. What if we had 50% of power positions filled by women? We couldn't possibly dislike 50% of our leaders. Sandberg believes that the solution to this problem is simply more women in computer science, more women at the top.

3. Make your partner a real partner

If you want to succeed - you have to have a real partner. You can't rise to the top and still be in charge of the majority of the house work and parenting. Sure, date the wrong guy in college, have fun - but marry someone that's going to be a partner. Just like with work achievements, most men overestimate how much time they spend on parenting as well!

4. Don't leave before you leave

Women leave jobs piece by piece. For example, if she is attending medical school, but knows she will be in charge of raising the children - she might pick a less interesting field. If she turns down an interesting job, because she's thinking of having children - she'll feel undervalued and regret missing that opportunity later.

"Lean forward. Always lean forward."
Tech jobs are the most flexible, so they tend to attract women who need the flexibility.

5. Start talking about this

I know what it's like being the only woman in the room. You don't want to rem
ind people about this. "I spent the majority of my career fitting in". Men are
jumping at the opportunities, women wait to feel comfortable with the idea of the new career.

Sandberg was advised against doing TED talks about being a woman in tech, told it would ruin her career if she dared to say that men and women were different. In fact, it didn't - it did lead to more women applying for jobs at Facebook.

Sandberg used to work 7AM-7PM, but that's just not possible with children. Sandberg is always home for dinner at 6PM - yes, she's checking email later at night than she used to, but she is doing it.

We need to talk about it - if we don't, things won't change.

"I'm older than most of you in the audience, by decades. I want to tell you something - my generation is not going to change this. You are the promise for equality, and equality is what matters."

What if men were half of the stay-at-home parents? What if we had more women CEOs?

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
What an amazing talk - so inspiring!

This post syndicated from Thoughts on security, beer, theater and biking!