In a Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership, most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders. So why, then, aren’t there more women in top leadership roles?
In the six TED Talks listed below, these speakers, including Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, provide reasons as to why women are being held back as leaders in the workplace and also provide great insight on how to fix the issue.
Description: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.
“So the question is, how are we going to fix this? How do we change these numbers at the top? How do we make this different? I want to start out by saying, I talk about this -- about keeping women in the workforce -- because I really think that's the answer.”
“Don't leave before you leave. I think there's a really deep irony to the fact that actions women are taking -- and I see this all the time -- with the objective of staying in the workforce actually lead to their eventually leaving.”
Description: You’re doing everything right at work, taking all the right advice, but you’re just not moving up. Why? Susan Colantuono shares a simple, surprising piece of advice you might not have heard before quite so plainly. This talk, while aimed at an audience of women, has universal takeaways — for men and women, new grads and midcareer workers.
“In order to move up in organizations, you have to be known for your leadership skills, and this would apply to any of you, women or men. It means that you have to be recognized for using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others.”
“In seeking and identifying employees with high potential, the potential to go to the top of organizations, the skills and competencies that relate to that green box are rated twice as heavily as those in the other two elements of leadership. These skills and competencies can be summarized as business, strategic, and financial acumen.”
“We have to begin to focus more on developing and demonstrating the skills we have that show that we're people who understand our businesses, where they're headed, and our role in taking it there. That's what enables that breakthrough from middle management to leadership at the top.”
Description: Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners aren’t echo chambers — and how great research teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.
“So how do we develop the skills that we need? Because it does take skill and practice, too. If we aren't going to be afraid of conflict, we have to see it as thinking, and then we have to get really good at it.”
“Open information is fantastic, open networks are essential. But the truth won't set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it. Openness isn't the end. It's the beginning.”
Description: Sheryl Sandberg admits she was terrified to step onto the TED stage in 2010 — because she was going to talk, for the first time, about the lonely experience of being a woman in the top tiers of business. Millions of views (and a best-selling book) later, the Facebook COO talks with the woman who pushed her to give that first talk, Pat Mitchell. Sandberg opens up about the reaction to her idea, and explores the ways that women still struggle with success.
“What we know is that stereotypes are holding women back from leadership roles all over the world. It's so striking.”
“Do we think women are more aggressive than men? Of course not. It's just that we judge them through a different lens, and a lot of the character traits that you must exhibit to perform at work, to get results, to lead, are ones that we think, in a man, he's a boss, and in a woman, she's bossy. And the good news about this is that we can change this by acknowledging it.”
Description: The world is full of leadership programs, but the best way to learn how to lead might be right under your nose. In this clear, candid talk, Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.
“Why are the leadership gaps widening when there's so much more investment in leadership development? And what are the great leaders doing distinctly different to thrive and grow?”
“In a 21st-century world, which is more global, digitally enabled and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation, and where nothing big gets done without some kind of a complex matrix, relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader.”
Description: Public policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter made waves with her 2012 article, "Why women still can't have it all." But really, is this only a question for women? Here Slaughter expands her ideas and explains why shifts in work culture, public policy and social mores can lead to more equality — for men, women, all of us.
“In the workplace, real equality means valuing family just as much as work, and understanding that the two reinforce each other. As a leader and as a manager, I have always acted on the mantra, if family comes first, work does not come second -- life comes together.”