Thursday, December 23, 2010

Closed for the holiday

I'll be celebrating the Christmas holiday with my family this weekend, so your next post from The Eloquent Woman will be on Monday, December 27, 2010--just in time to wrap up the year.  If you're celebrating, I wish you a wonderful holiday!

Sheryl Sandberg just might be my Eloquent Woman of the Year

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, just might be my Eloquent Woman of the Year. There's no such prize, mind you, but this speech (watch the video at the end of this post) may have changed my mind about that.

Sandberg, one of the few women to reach the top of the high-tech world, is speaking at TED about why we have too few women leaders.  It's timely, coming on the heels of a report that there are no women leading Web 2.0 companies, and Sandberg herself is not the CEO of Facebook, so she knows this topic all too well.  She's widely regarded as capable and savvy, and her three-point message here works:  take a seat at the table, make your partner an equal partner, and don't leave before you leave.

What makes me think of her as "eloquent woman of the year" is that she takes all that and injects into her speech plainspoken reality. She even turns the lens on her own behavior, to illustrate in real-time terms the uphill battles--seemingly minute, but powerful--that women face in the workplace today.  The result is credible, gripping, disappointing and ultimately invigorating listening for the audience, which is exactly what happens when women use the power of public speaking to shed light on their own issues.  Here's just one powerful anecdote, and of course, it involved a speech:

I'm about to tell a story, which is truly embarrassing for me, but I think important. I gave this talk at Facebook not so long ago to about a hundred employees. And a couple hours later, there was a young woman who works there sitting outside my little desk, and she wanted to talk to me. I said, okay, and she sat down, and we talked. And she said, "I learned something today. I learned that I need to keep my hand up." I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "Well, you're giving this talk, and you said you were going to take two more questions. And I had my hand up with lots of other people, and you took two more questions. And I put my hand down, and I noticed all the women put their hand down, and then you took more questions, only from the men." And I thought to myself, wow, if it's me -- who cares about this, obviously -- giving this talk -- during this talk, I can't even notice that the men's hands are still raised, and the women's hands are still raised, how good are we as managers of our companies and our organizations at seeing that the men are reaching for opportunities more than women? We've got to get women to sit at the table.
And that's just point number one.  Sandberg also tells memorable stories about pitching deals in firms where there were no women and the male executives didn't know how to direct her to the restroom, just so you know this stuff happens to her, too.

Watch this speech and think about how you can contribute in a better way to helping women advance in your workplace, be it paid or volunteer, or when you are a speaker.  What do you think about this powerful talk?

Clip to Evernote

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