On this episode
We’ve always believed the world would be better if more countries and companies were run by women. And 2020 proved us right: women leaders consistently stood out for their empathetic and effective response to Covid-19.
In this episode, we talk to two notable women leaders—Shellye Archambeau and Sheryl Sandberg—about how they navigated an incredibly difficult year, how our definition of a “good” leader is evolving, and how all leaders can take steps to get women through this crisis.
More about our guests:
- Shellye Archambeau has over 30 years of experience in technology, leading organizations focused on business to business as well as business to consumer. As CEO of MetricStream, she was one of Silicon Valley’s first Black women CEOs and built the company from a struggling startup into a global market leader. She currently serves on the boards of Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and Okta. She is also a strategic advisor to Forbes Ignite and to the President of Arizona State University, and serves on the boards of two national nonprofits, Catalyst and Braven. Check out her new book, “Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms.”
- Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at Facebook, overseeing the firm’s business operations. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Clinton, a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and an economist with the World Bank. She is also the founder of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to build a more equal and resilient world through two key initiatives, LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org.
Rachel Thomas (00:05):
Welcome to Tilted: A Lean In Podcast. Tilted brings you conversations at the intersection of gender and culture. We dig into topics we’re curious about, highlight people and stories that inspire us, and we hope inspire you, too, and share expert advice to help you make the playing field a little less tilted. I’m your host, Rachel Thomas Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Lean In. At Lean In we’ve always believed the world would be better if women ran more countries and companies, and I think 2020 proved us right. In fact, according to two recent studies, countries run by women have had lower COVID-19 fatality rates, and women leaders have been seen as more effective, and more empathetic, through this crisis. So today on Tilted we’re talking to two incredible women leaders about their reflections on 2020, and their advice for all leaders as we head into 2021.
First, I spoke to Shellye Archambeau. Shellye’s the former CEO of MetricStream, where she was one of Silicon Valley’s first black women CEOs, and built the company from a struggling startup to a global leader. Shellye Archambeau now serves on the Boards of Nordstrom and Verizon, and she’s the author of Unapologetically Ambitious, a book title I love, and one that captures so much of what we believe in here at Lean In. Then I sat down with my friend, and boss, Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. I always get a ton out of talking to women I look up to, lots of little nuggets, lots of kernels to hold on to. I got so much out of these conversations, so I hope that you do, too. So, before we dive into things, I’m just curious, are there any women leaders this year that have really inspired you?
Shellye Archambeau (01:53):
I would say Carol Tomei, who is planning to be retired, and is now CEO of UPS. Talk about going right into the fire with everything that’s going on in that space. So, that to me is terrific. Then, who else would I say in terms of people who have inspired me this year? Ursula Burns for initiating the Diverse Board Initiative that she is driving, using her platform and her voice to try to make a difference and an impact.
Rachel Thomas (02:23):
Yeah, here, here.
Shellye Archambeau (02:24):
Oh my goodness. Then so many female global leaders. So, when you look at how they have managed this whole pandemic, and their countries are just doing so much better, that absolutely inspires me.
Rachel Thomas (02:36):
That’s great. You know what, it makes me feel more optimistic thinking about 2020, to highlight all the amazing things women leaders have done. So, thank you for that.
Shellye Archambeau (02:45):
Very true. Very true.
Rachel Thomas (02:47):
Before we talk about 2020 and 2021, I’d love for you to share with our listeners a little bit about your personal leadership journey, because it’s awesome and inspiring.
Shellye Archambeau (02:57):
Oh, thank you. So, I decided early that I actually wanted to run a business, and I picked tech because it was a growing industry at the time. Industries that are growing have more opportunities, so I jumped right into tech. I spent the first 15 years actually at IBM, climbing that corporate ladder with my eye on the prize, or I want to be CEO of IBM. I did pretty well. After 14 years I had actually risen to the point where there wasn’t anyone higher than me that looked like me. I was running a multi-billion dollar division over in Asia Pacific, and my boss worked directly for Lou Gerstner. So, I’d done pretty well, but it wasn’t clear that I was actually going to get a shot to be CEO of IBM. So, therefore, I worked my way to Silicon Valley with a short stint at blockbuster.com as the President, first President of blockbuster.com.
I then ended up in the Valley. I was the chief marketing officer and EVP of sales at two newly public companies, North point, and then LoudCloud with Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, and then got my shot. I was hired by Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins at the time. Now it was pretty broken, but we were able to turn it around and turn it into a market leader over the course of 15 years, and it’s still going strong with servicing customers all over the globe in governance, risk, and compliance.
Rachel Thomas (04:18):
I have heard you tell a story that early on in your career you said you wanted to run a company and you got a sideways glance, and that really changed the way you thought about your leadership journey. Can you talk about that for a second?
Shellye Archambeau (04:30):
Oh sure. I was actually still an intern. I was at Wharton, and I was interning at IBM. Someone asked me, “Oh, what do you want to do when you graduate,” and that kind of stuff? I said, “Oh, I want to be CEO,” and I got this look and I thought, “Hm.” So when people asked me what I wanted to do I stopped saying CEO at that point, I would just pick a couple of roles. Oh, I want to run a business, something sounded more innocuous. Then as I got into my career I’d just pick a title two or three levels above where I was and say, “That’s what I want to do,” because it is what I wanted to do. It just happened to be on the path to get me to where I ultimately wanted to go.
Rachel Thomas (05:10):
You’ve since written a book, Unapologetically Ambitious, which speaks to me on so many levels, I don’t even know what to say. We run Lean In Circles, and one of the things we always say is Lean In circles are a place where women can be unapologetically ambitious, and we have too few places where we can do that. So, in that spirit I have a question for you. If you had to do it again would you be more boldly throwing out you wanted to be a CEO, or do you think he would still take the same approach as you look back on your journey?
Shellye Archambeau (05:37):
That’s a really good question. I would still take the same approach, and let me explain why. Being ambitious doesn’t mean I have to step out and say, “All right, world, I’m going to be CEO, get in line.” Nobody wants to work with anybody like that, male or female, frankly. That’s not a gender thing. I just found it to be much more effective to communicate in a way in which people can hear what you want to say. So, if you pick a role that’s just a step or two above people can actually imagine that, and if they can imagine it then they can actually help you achieve it. Whereas, if you pick something, even though you have the foresight to say, “This is where I want to go,” they can’t imagine and, therefore, they can’t necessarily help you with that. So, half of communications is being able to communicate in the style in which people can actually hear what you’re saying, and internalize it to the point where they can either help you, support you, et cetera. So, I’d keep the same approach.
Rachel Thomas (06:35):
I’ll buy that, that makes a lot of sense to me. So, we are coming off one heck of a year.
Shellye Archambeau (06:42):
Rachel Thomas (06:43):
I mean, it’s an understatement. When you think about the year and leadership, I know you’re on the Boards of Verizon, of Nordstrom, but how have leaders gotten through this?
Shellye Archambeau (06:54):
I’ve been really proud of the people that I’ve had the opportunity to actually see up close and personal through this period, because it’s been a hard year. Oh my goodness. I mean, it’s hard for everybody, but for people who are actually leading organizations where everyone is looking to them for the counsel, the guidance, the support, the belief, that we’re going to get through it. They’re looking to them for courage, and strength, and all those things. It’s especially, especially hard, especially since there was no playbook for this, absolutely no playbook for this. What I saw was leaders doing the right things first, which is how are people? Are people safe, are people okay? First question out of the gate, and that’s where a lot of the priority went in the conversations.
Next, how about our customers? Then it was all right financially. So, are we going to be okay through this thing? Once you get past COVID then we had all the racial justice pieces come to light, and so, boom, here’s another area of focus. Again, I was really encouraged by the fact that really for the first time business leaders, not everybody but most that I was aware of, actually, using your phrase, leaned in, actually started talking about this, talking about race, talking about racial justice. Let me tell you, in the past like in the sixties, this was not something businesses talked about. That was a government issue not a business issue. So that gives me, actually, a lot of hope and optimism for the future.
Rachel Thomas (08:30):
Yeah. That is really encouraging. So, we looked a lot at this, and everybody listening knows, but burnout was such an issue or continues to be such an issue for women, in particular given everything that’s going on at home and at work. Have you seen companies do really interesting or innovative things to address burnout?
Shellye Archambeau (08:46):
Honestly, it’s encouraging managers to be compassionate. It really is very basic. Your manager has more impact on your day to day than anybody else. So, it isn’t a matter of a company announcing some policy, it really is how you engage with your manager.
...announcing some policy really is how you engage with your manager, so encouraging your management to actually be compassionate and to show that they care. Burnout is hard. Working hard is just definitely overwhelming, but if you’re working hard and feel nobody cares about the fact that you’re working hard, it is really painful, right? That’s just so much more difficult. But working hard knowing people actually realize it and that they care about you and want to figure out how to help you with that makes all the difference in the world. So, the best practices here are really just to get to the frontline managers and make sure that they understand their job is to, indeed, be compassionate and empathetic, figure out how to get the work done, of course, but how to do it in a way in which their employees can manage through this.
Rachel Thomas (09:49):
We say in a lot of our work set where the rubber hits the road, it’s really managers, because you’re right. They make so many of the day-to-day decisions that impact your work, how you feel about your work, your perception of your opportunities, your opportunities, all of it. I want to go back to the long overdue racial reckoning that we’re having in the country right now and that companies are, I think, in a way they haven’t before, standing up to combat racism. As a Black woman yourself and a leader yourself, what’s your brass tacks advice for leaders as we move into 2021 to, A, not lose the momentum because we don’t want to waste a crisis here, and B, what they can do day to day to make sure they’re doing more to advance Black women in their organization?
Shellye Archambeau (10:30):
There’s really one step that’s very basic that all companies can take. Today, we have expectations for managers, and we have expectations for managers that are able to rise up within the organization from first line to second line, director, executive, et cetera. And what are those expectations? Well, being able to hire a team, develop a team, promote a team, make sure that you can actually lead a team and you can get work done through that team. Okay. If we just add an adjective, just add an adjective: ability to hire a diverse team, manage a diverse team, develop a diverse team, lead a diverse team, promote a diverse state, whatever. Just add one adjective. What does that do? Well, it now becomes a requirement. So if I’m a first line manager and one day I want to be a second line manager and I’ve not actually demonstrated that I can hire, retain, promote, develop a diverse team, I don’t get promoted until I show that I can do that.
The issue is we’re not intentional. We are not intentional about it, and we don’t make it part and parcel to the strategy of how we do business. We set it off to the side. Instead of being on the main stage, it’s on the side stage. And people say, “Are you doing something?” “Oh, yeah. We’re doing something over there,” right? Over there. No, no, no. It’s because when push comes to shove and things get hard, like now business gets hard, a company gets threatened, customers, whatever, what happens? Everybody gets focused right back on the strategy. Anything that’s not core to the strategy kind of gets second fiddle. Well, if diversity and building diversity is not part of that focus strategy, it gets left behind, and then we wonder four or five years later, “Gosh, we tried to do some things and nothing ever happened. This is so hard.”
It is not so hard. Anything that you put to the side is not going to happen. You want to grow revenue, and you don’t give people targets, and you don’t put plans in place, and you don’t actually hire people to do it, and you don’t let people know what your expectations are with regards to revenue, and you don’t come out with new products to actually drive revenue, then guess what? You’re not going to grow revenue either. This is not hard. It’s all about intention.
Rachel Thomas (12:43):
So many of the things you just talked about, we obviously talk about, and I talk a lot about, which is you’ve got to build it in what gets tracked. What we set goals against, what we track and what we reward is what gets done in organizations. The second piece of this is Black women in particular, who often do have such a difficult time in the workplace, face more microaggressions, get less access to senior leaders, less mentorship, advanced more slowly. I mean, the data on this and the lived experiences on this just make you angry and break your heart all at the same time. What can managers and senior leaders be doing as individuals?
Shellye Archambeau (13:19):
The biggest thing that women need but especially Black women are really allies to help put in perspective. When somebody says, “Oh, I don’t know about Shellye Archambeau. She ...” and then blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You need somebody who’s around the table who says, “Actually, I’ve had a chance to get to know her, and I think you’re misjudging or not really understanding or misinterpreting.” So at this senior levels, I always encourage companies to have senior leaders, sponsor. Sponsor, not mentor, but sponsor two people that don’t look like them. And what does sponsorship mean, just to make sure people understand? Sponsorship is not mentorship. Mentorship I see as being reactive. I’ll come to you, Rachel Thomas, and I’ll ask for advice. I’ll ask for counsel, maybe some guidance, perspective, et cetera, but I’m the one that’s asking. I set up the time. You’re not thinking necessarily. You might eventually think about me, but then again, you’re not really. I’m pulling.
A sponsor is just the opposite. A sponsor is somebody that actually opens doors for you, that creates opportunities for you, that is proactively helping to think, how can you advance? So if people start sponsoring people, number one, if the expectation is okay, all of our senior leaders have to sponsor people that don’t look like them, and so now I’m sponsoring a Black woman. What does that mean? First of all, I have to find her. I’ve got to find somebody that I believe actually has a career opportunity, because if I sponsor somebody and they don’t move, that’s a bad reflection on me, which it is. So you’ve got to go find good talents. Number one, it causes you to actually go look. Actually look for talent. Amazing. And you know what? Most companies have some great talent, so go find the talent. And if you can’t find the talent, hire it.
So now you have a person that you are sponsoring. Now, you’re thinking about them proactively. What do they need? How do they develop? It’ll also cause you to get to know them better, and some of your biases will probably be shaped, reduced, whatever, as a result of that. And by being an advocate now for them, you’re able to see when you raise their name, make suggestions, you’ll start to hear things that may or may not mesh with what you now know. Well, you now have a voice and you can actually help with that. So I think sponsorship can play a big role in just helping people get a better understanding.
Rachel Thomas (15:41):
I couldn’t agree more. So switching gears back a little bit, this has been a year where a lot of women have shown up as amazing leaders. Do you think it’s changing the way we think about leadership or changing the way we define what a good leader is?
Shellye Archambeau (15:56):
I’ve actually been watching what I think is a trend over the last several years where “the soft skills ...” Women were always credited for the soft skills, which is why they’re called soft. There’s nothing soft about these skills, but they’re actually growing in importance, especially when you look at global leaders and global leadership. So now is a phenomenal time for women leaders, because I do think the world is finally ready for a lot of the strengths that we have been cultivating and developing over the years.
Rachel Thomas (16:27):
The other thing we’re seeing in our research this year, and I wonder if you’ve seen it from the board room, is that companies are investing in employee mental health and wellbeing in ways that they never have before. We we also know that employees are more aware of what’s happening in each other’s lives than they ever have been before, and so I posit that we might be planting the seeds for a little bit of a kinder, gentler workplace. Is that something you’ve seen, and how do you think about that when you play out how that may impact the future of work?
Shellye Archambeau (16:57):
Oh, I definitely see it, and I’m very optimistic by it, because people have now seen the backstory because everyone’s had the experience where they’re doing a Zoom call and somebody’s child comes, the dog barks, whatever happens. I did a call this morning with a CEO, and on his lap was his seven or eight-year-old daughter, right? So that would never have happened before, and therefore people are actually being seen as more human, but especially leaders being seen as more human.
Rachel Thomas (17:27):
I could have talked to Shellye Archambeau all day. She has such a gift for distilling big ideas into memorable stories and these really practical nuggets of advice. I know that she’s inspiring women through her book, and I think she’s inspiring women every time she talks about the issues she believes so deeply in. And speaking of inspiration, my next guest is someone who’s inspired me as a leader in countless ways over the years, our own Sheryl Sandberg.
Rachel Thomas (18:00):
So Sheryl, I cannot start a conversation with you, for obvious reasons, without talking about women and what’s going on. For obvious reasons without talking about women and what’s going on with women at work and women in leadership. How is the pandemic affecting women at work? And what are you most worried about when you think about the state of women in leadership?
Sheryl Sandberg (18:13):
Rachel, it’s such an important question. This pandemic is a health crisis. It is an economic crisis. It’s pushing another 100 million people into really serious abject poverty around the world. It’s pushing more and more people in our own country into food insecurity. So, it’s an economic crisis, but it is a full-on crisis for women as well. And what you and I wrote together when we released the first report we did on this, which said that one in four women are thinking about leaving the workforce. We said, “If there were a panic button, we’d be pushing it.” Women are working a double shift. They are trying to do their jobs often via Zoom, sometimes out of the house with kids at home, with parents to take care of. Women do the great majority of caregiving everywhere in the world, including for women who work full-time and have male partners who work full-time. And women are not just saying they’re going to drop out, women are dropping out. They’re leaving the workforce in droves.
Rachel Thomas (19:09):
All right. One tip for companies/leaders to hang onto women so that we get through this.
Sheryl Sandberg (19:16):
Recognizer that these are not normal times and you can’t manage people the exact same way. So, at Facebook, the first half of last year, we canceled our performance cycle. Canceled it, no ratings, no promotions, no reviews. And then we paid everyone out at more than 100% of the company bonus. Now, we’re a fortunate company, we were able to do that. But we had big conversations about it, like a lot of people want to have reviews, they want to get promotions, but we realized that if we were saying to everyone, “Take care of yourselves,” and we were still running our regular performance cycle, people would know we didn’t really mean it.
And we just took it all away, we took all the pressure away. I don’t know what that is for every company out there, it’s going to be different. We now have our performance cycle again, but we’re very clear that everyone can’t meet the expectations they met before. So, I don’t know exactly what that means for every company, but if you are running it as business as usual, you are not giving people the freedom they need, women, but also men to meet the crisis. You’re not recognizing that people have kids at home and no school and no childcare. You’re not recognizing that people are nervous every time they leave the house if their frontline workers and they’re bringing that anxiety home. It cannot be business as usual right now.
Rachel Thomas (20:30):
The other thing I know you’re doing is you have this show care kind of practice lab. What is it?
Sheryl Sandberg (20:36):
Well, managers need to literally show care for the people that work for them. We have to ask, “How are you? How’s it going? Are your kids at home?” If you’re single, “Are you lonely?” A lot of people are really lonely in these moments. And so, the idea is it’s an initiative center to help managers show care for people. When Coronavirus happened, we gave out stipends so that people could buy things for home office, so they were set up. Finding ways to show care, both financially, but also just as a colleague or manager, call up. “How are you? I know this is really hard, can I help you with that project? I know your father has Coronavirus, what can I take on that lets you really focus?”
Rachel Thomas (21:17):
And I know you’ve asked me a ton over the last handful of months. I think you started almost every conversation with me, “How are you doing?” And I’m glad most days I’m able to say, “Okay,” but not every day. I’m assuming you’re doing that at Facebook too. What are the conversations with your team right now?
Sheryl Sandberg (21:31):
You have to find ways to have conversations with your team. So, I sit in a big open area with the people who I work most closely with. So, I get to say, “How are you?” I know what’s going on in their lives. And I realize that doesn’t happen on Zoom. So we have a team meeting once a month where everyone checks in. We just get on the Zoom, everyone puts down their pens and we just say, “How are you? What’s going on? How do you feel? What’s going on?” And that’s how I know what’s going on in people’s lives. So, I think finding ways to replicate those relationships.
Rachel Thomas (21:59):
So, one of the things we did this year that I know both of us felt so strongly about was we put out an explicit call to action to companies that if they want to do better by women, they had to do better by black women. So, as you think about what leaders can do, what companies/managers can do to better support black women, what bubbles up for you most?
Sheryl Sandberg (22:17):
Well, the place to start is recognizing that the pattern is very clear. Women have a worse experience at work than men, and women of color have a worse experience than white women. And you can see it in the data. So, you and I talk a lot about that broken first rung to manager. There’s a lot of focus on diversity and a lot of focus often at the top, but the only way to get women at the top is get them in the door and promote them at the same rates. And that’s not happening. For every 100 men promoted to manager, 80 white women are promoted, 71 Latinas, and 58 black women. That’s where the problem, not starts, but that’s a big part of the problem. And it is earlier in careers than people think. So, how are we going to fix the problem? We need to treat diversity as the business priority it is. We know that diverse teams make better decisions. We know that diverse teams are going to build better products.
So, we need to recognize, at the very top and all the way through companies, that this is important. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. And both of those should be highly motivating. Managers need to challenge bias when they see it and really show up as allies. And this is important, most managers think they’re doing this and most employees think they’re not. Only 33% of employees say managers are really showing up as allies.
A lot of these steps we’ve tried to take at Facebook. You need a very high level DNI function. We changed ours, so it was reporting directly to me, making sure that function was represented in every leadership meeting, including all the products, meaning increasing the accountability of senior leaders, making sure that there’s a public commitment. We’re using very across the board, the diverse slate approach: don’t hire until you interview qualified candidates of diverse backgrounds. That has been something that has really been shown to work. To hire women, women of color, it is massively important for getting diversity in the door and making sure we can really focus on this as the priority it is.
Rachel Thomas (24:26):
One of the things that I’ve really felt a lot this year is I have to get really comfortable with difficult conversations if we’re going to do right by women of color. And I’ve had a couple of times this year where a woman of color on my team has said, “I know you had the best intentions, but the way you did this or the way you said this, it didn’t work, and here’s why.” Have you been having those moments? How do you take that in and what do you do?
Sheryl Sandberg (24:49):
I always feel good when I have those moments.
Rachel Thomas (24:51):
I know, it’s true.
Sheryl Sandberg (24:51):
It just means people are telling me the truth.
Rachel Thomas (24:55):
Sheryl Sandberg (24:55):
You made this mistake, you made that mistake. You didn’t acknowledge that my experience is different from yours. I think those are great moments. What I try to do is repeat them and praise the person. So, people realize that I’m not just going to thank them and try to act on their feedback, but I’m really going to try to hear it. I also think, and this is something I’ve really worked on is we have to recognize that we can’t understand other people’s experiences. We need people to express their own views. So, I think in the first version of Lean In that I wrote, the book was kind of research and my story. And I’m white, and privileged, and a tech exec, and I can’t speak for everyone. And I think putting out the second version of Lean In where we had so many different women speaking in their own voices, their own chapters, their own stories, speaking from the point of view of different ages, different backgrounds, making sure the voices of women of color were speaking for themselves is so important. And I think we can do that in a corporate setting.
Rachel Thomas (25:52):
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot this year and you’ve alluded to this is I think this is changing how we think about what a good leader is. We’re valuing empathetic leadership, I think more than we have before. What have you learned this year that you think has made you a better leader?
Sheryl Sandberg (26:07):
I’ve learned a lot. The whole remote work thing I would have thought was impossible. If you had said to me, we could send our entire workforce home, and still ship as many products, and still keep our service up and running, and still protect against foreign interference in a massive election and elections out in the world, I would have said, “Absolutely not, everyone gets to the office,” but we had to. And so, everyone went home, including all the people who review all the content. And you know what? We reviewed as much content, we drove down hate speech, we actually shipped products. And that kind of flexibility, it’s not working right now, because this kind of flexibility is coupled with no kids at school. But once the world is back to normal, this kind of flexibility could make all the difference for women. If more people could video into meetings rather than fly around the world and have to leave their kids, if more people could work from home, so that they can go to the parent-teacher conference and go back, this flexibility could be.
Sheryl Sandberg (27:00):
...go to the parent-teacher conference and go back. This flexibility could be game-changing for parents, and particularly for women.
Rachel Thomas (27:07):
Do you worry? I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I worry that if we don’t do it right we’ll end up stigmatizing remote work and women will predominantly be remote workers and there’ll be a stigma attached to it because you’re not in the office. It’ll come with a lot of opportunity, but it will also come with some baggage for women. Do you worry about that?
Sheryl Sandberg (27:26):
I do. When men go say, “I’ve got to leave, I’ve got to go to my daughter’s soccer game,” everyone’s like, “Oh, my God, he’s such a great guy. How great.” When women do that, it’s like, “She’s not dedicated to her job.” We had a meeting at Facebook earlier today, a big Zoom meeting and it was of all the female Vps. And I try to get them all together, and there’s a lot of us now, which is great. And in the meeting, someone’s daughter walked up and grabbed her leg. You could see it on the Zoom. And then someone else said that she loves that at Facebook it’s totally fine if that happens on Zoom, but she has a friend working for another company and had exactly the experience I described. A man was on a Zoom and the kid walked in and everyone’s like, “What a dedicated father.” And it happened to her and someone said, “When your child walks in, it looks like you’re not fully focusing from home.”
Rachel Thomas (28:13):
It’s crazy. I think listeners will honestly almost not believe me when I say this, but I have a senior level woman at another org that I’ve been working with a lot. And she told me that recently one of her kids ran behind her on the Zoom and she flinched. That’s how intuitively women know that we get penalized for this and that’s what a big deal it is. She literally flinched.
Sheryl Sandberg (28:35):
When I had children, I was at Google. Google was a great place to work for women relatively to almost everywhere else, but still I had different jackets and I hid them on my chair, hid them behind the door and then put them on my chair so that people would think I was at another meeting, not go home. Before I had kids, I worked 7:00 to 7:00 in the office, maybe more. But once I had a son, he was sleeping. If I worked in the office from 7:00 to 7:00 I never saw him, so I had to leave the office earlier. I used to walk into the parking lot, I’m sure I looked like a cartoon character, and look around and make sure no one saw I was dashing to my car. We have to make it okay to be a parent and have other responsibilities because people have enormous other responsibilities.
Rachel Thomas (29:19):
You are a mom, which you just mentioned, and you’re at home, you’re with Tom, your fiance. I got your holiday card. What was it? The “Bernburgs.”
Sheryl Sandberg (29:32):
Rachel Thomas (29:35):
So everybody listening, it was a take on the Brady Bunch. It was super cute because Tom has three kids and you have two so now there’s five of you. What is it like at home? How has the COVID-19 experience been for you, the kids, Tom?
Sheryl Sandberg (29:51):
When this all happened, Tom and I had just gotten engaged. He was living in LA planning on moving up over the summer with his kids. I was living here with my two, and then the schools shut and they moved up overnight. And at the time we told ourselves and our kids, we said, “This is going to be two weeks and you’ll be back to school.” That was in March, and then school never opened again. So we moved in overnight and very much became this big blended family. For me, that’s been amongst all the hardship. I can’t even imagine going through this without him and them, without having more people around for me. Our home, ever since I lost my husband, David, just no matter what I did, the three of us felt small. I felt the presence of the missing father.
And so for me, having them to go through this with has been really magic. At the same time, his first cousin was one of the first and early pretty public deaths in coronavirus so we are a family that the coronavirus death has touched us. And I know we’ve been, of course, really sad about that, but then we are even more grateful for the relative health of everyone else in the family so far.
Rachel Thomas (30:54):
And how are the kids doing? How are they holding up?
Sheryl Sandberg (30:56):
Coronavirus is hard on teenagers. We have five kids ranging from eight to 16. They have each other. And my kids also do know how lucky they are. All five of them know that. Food insecurity in this country has gone to one in four kids. It’s one in three in the Bay Area. This is a time where if you are healthy, even if you’re doing Zoom school, if you have food on the table and a roof over your head, you have to find a way to be grateful for that.
Rachel Thomas (31:20):
And one last thing, because you’ve done such a good job at a couple of times over the year talking to the team about resilience and that we can bounce forward, that we can get through this. For everybody listening, talk to everybody about how do you build resilience in a year that’s this tough?
Sheryl Sandberg (31:38):
When I lost my husband, a quote from my friend phil was, “I wanted Dave to be at something and Dave was gone.” He said, “Option A is not available. Let’s just kick the shit out of option B.” And the idea is when we suffer, we can’t just recover, but can we bounce forward? There’s a beautiful metaphor here in a physical object, which is, there’s a form of Japanese pottery that it breaks and then you put it back together and it’s stronger than it was before. And that’s bouncing forward. When we go through hardship, the goal is not just to recover, it’s that we are stronger than we were before. As horrible as Dave’s death was for me and my children, we are stronger because we know what we can get through. As difficult as this year is for everyone, everyone is living a form of option B right now. We can be stronger. We can bounce forward, find that inner strength. We can also find more gratitude.
Before Dave died, I didn’t appreciate my birthdays particularly. I didn’t celebrate them particularly. I did what a lot of people do. I moaned about growing old. Not anymore. Every birthday is a gift. I tear up thinking about every birthday. Before coronavirus, I didn’t really appreciate that I could see you and hug you, that you and I could work the same place, that I would come by the Lean In office every so often or you would come have a meal at my house. The next time, Rachel Thomas, I get to hug you, I’m going to feel that hug in a way I never appreciated it before. And that gratitude makes our lives better.
Rachel Thomas (33:16):
2020 was an awful year but it taught us a lot about what good leadership really looks like. And we need to make sure we don’t waste those lessons. Women like Shellye Archambeau and Sheryl are showing us just how much more effective leaders can be when they’re empathetic and inclusive. I hope leaders everywhere, and really all of us, take their advice to heart.