Why we have too few women leaders | Sheryl Sandberg | Summary and Q&A

December 21, 2010
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Why we have too few women leaders | Sheryl Sandberg


Despite progress, women still face challenges in reaching the top positions in their professions due to a combination of societal and personal obstacles.

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Key Insights

  • 💼 Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world, with numbers in political, corporate, and non-profit sectors remaining stagnant.
  • 👥 Women face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfillment, with fewer married women having children compared to married men.
  • 👀 The lack of gender diversity in the workforce can result in oversight and unconscious bias, as seen in the anecdote highlighting the lack of awareness about the women's restroom in a New York private equity office.
  • 💪 The solution to keeping women in the workforce lies in individual action and mindset.
  • 🚪 "Sit at the table," meaning women should actively assert themselves and take ownership of their place and achievements in the workplace.
  • 👨 Making one's partner a real partner is crucial for achieving balance and equality in household responsibilities, which can ultimately lead to women staying in the workforce.
  • ️ Women should focus on the present and avoid prematurely making decisions about their career paths, thus avoiding the tendency to lean back before needing to leave the workforce.
  • 💼 A world where half of our countries and companies are run by women would be beneficial for society and provide equal opportunities for both genders.


So for any of us in this room today, let's start out by admitting we're lucky. We don't live in the world our mothers lived in, our grandmothers lived in, where career choices for women were so limited. And if you're in this room today, most of us grew up in a world where we have basic civil rights, and amazingly, we still live in a world where som... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How are women affected by the lack of representation in top positions?

The lack of representation in top positions affects women in multiple ways, including limited opportunities for career growth, being undervalued for their accomplishments, and facing difficult choices between work and personal life. These barriers can impact their overall advancement and success.

Q: What are some common challenges that women face in balancing their professional and personal lives?

Women often have to navigate societal expectations and biases that put pressure on them to prioritize their family over their careers. This can lead to decreased visibility, unequal division of household chores and childcare responsibilities, and less time and energy to invest in their professional development.

Q: Why is it important for women to assert themselves and sit at the table?

Sitting at the table symbolizes actively participating and advocating for oneself in professional settings. By doing so, women increase their visibility, voice their ideas, and make their presence known. This not only contributes to their personal career growth but also challenges societal norms that marginalize women's contributions.

Q: How can men play a role in promoting gender equality in the workplace?

Men can be instrumental in promoting gender equality by actively challenging and changing societal stereotypes, sharing household responsibilities equally, supporting their female colleagues, and championing for equal opportunities within organizations. Creating a more equitable work environment requires the collective effort of both men and women.


In this video, the speaker discusses the challenges women face in reaching the top of their professions. She highlights the lack of representation of women in leadership positions and emphasizes the need for change. The speaker also addresses the difficult choices women often have to make between career success and personal fulfillment. She offers three messages for women: sit at the table, make your partner a real partner, and don't leave before you leave.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the problem the speaker addresses?

The problem is that women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world. The numbers show a lack of representation of women in leadership positions across various sectors.

Q: How do men and women differ in their self-perception of abilities?

Studies show that women systematically underestimate their own abilities, while men tend to overestimate theirs. Women attribute their success to external factors, such as luck or help from others, while men attribute it to their own abilities.

Q: Why does the speaker emphasize the importance of sitting at the table?

The speaker believes that sitting at the table is crucial for women to be seen and heard. By actively participating and taking up space, women can challenge the gender imbalance and assert their presence in the professional world.

Q: How does the speaker suggest making a partner a real partner?

The speaker argues that both men and women need to share the responsibilities of work and home equally. By creating a supportive and equal partnership, women can have the opportunity to pursue their careers without sacrificing their personal lives.

Q: What is the speaker's advice regarding leaving before you leave?

The speaker encourages women not to make decisions about their careers too far in advance, particularly decisions that may limit their future opportunities. Women should continue to strive for success and retain their ambition until the day they need to leave for family reasons.

Q: What does the speaker believe future generations can achieve?

The speaker believes that future generations have the potential to change the numbers at the top and create a world where women have equal representation in leadership positions. She envisions a better world where both men and women have the freedom to choose their paths and are recognized for their accomplishments.


The speaker highlights the lack of women in leadership positions and the challenges they face in balancing work and personal life. She emphasizes the importance of women sitting at the table, making their partners true partners, and not making career decisions too far in advance. The speaker believes that future generations have the potential to achieve gender equality at the top and create a better world for both men and women.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Women are underrepresented in top positions across various sectors globally.

  • Women often face difficult choices between career success and personal fulfillment.

  • Changing the status quo requires individual efforts, including believing in oneself, making partnerships equal, and resisting making career decisions based on future family plans.

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