When the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter first came out during World War II, society was still grappling with women joining forces with men and working in factories and shipyards. It soon became evident that women were a force to reckon with. The image of a woman rallying others with the cry ‘We Can Do It’ helped tide over the cultural revolution which was brimming on the surface. Fast-forward to the present – there now exists indignation among women over the stereotypes and discrimination they face at work, especially considering the low numbers of women in tech. This is where leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg help bridge the gap and unequivocally challenge nuances which question the efforts of working women.
An author, mother, tech expert, and progressive leader, Sheryl has donned many hats over her career, and worn them all equally well. Be it questioning gender roles or predominant stereotypes within the professional sphere, she has contributed to a broader notion of thinking in work environments.
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
A question with an infinite answer list, Sheryl Sandberg invokes fellow women to shed their fears and apprehension, ’cause only then can you dare to become the best version of yourself. With constant claims flying around about how the world is at our feet, how do you feel as a woman in the workspace? How do you raise our game beyond the set standards and make your mark? These are questions that Sheryl begs each and every woman to explore, as she looks for more women to join the leadership bandwagon and push the envelope forward. So rather than following a tried and tested trope, choose to select ‘Option B’, where you challenge the status quo – something which helped Sheryl create her legacy. She says,
“Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.”
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
“The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
“There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
“The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days – the times that challenge you to your very core – that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.”
For someone who has always been baffled about pre-existing stereotypes or society’s stubbornness to shed them, Sheryl has always insisted on helping each other in this race rather than competing. Not a person who would accept gender roles lying down, she has been a critic of the belief that women stay in the kitchen and the men at work. Her professional and personal lives are a case in point.
“We find our humanity – our will to live and our ability to love – in our connections to one another.”
“When you look at successful women, they have other women who have supported them, and they’ve gotten to where they are because of those women.”
“The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Acting like a coalition truly does produce results.”
Sheryl faced emotional difficulties after her husband David Goldberg passed away, and underwent a period of bitter grief. Showing the true mark of a leader, she used this suffering and pain to understand challenges of single parents. The experience helped her realise the power and importance of empathy, and she decided to speak about it in her book Option B, sharing lessons not only from her experience of losing a loved one but those of other people too. She writes,
“Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined.”
“The upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.”
“It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness.”
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
So, for any and every woman out there who is staring down inequality or pushed into accommodating gender roles, put on the cape of resilience. As Sheryl would tell you – when adversity hits you, you do not crumble (never). Instead, hold your head high, stare down these doubts and challenges right in the eye, and go forth and conquer.