Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg brought her message of corporate woman power to Philadelphia today. She was in town to promote her book “Lean In.”
Early in the morning, a stampede of powerheels clacked up the stairs of a Center City hotel to hear Sandberg speak, and if the audience wanted tweetable inspiration, the petite go-getter had plenty to offer.
“I didn’t want to be most likely to succeed, I wanted a prom date,” was one of Sandberg’s catchy lines.
“Sit at the table. You don’t have to believe you belong there, but sit there anyway,” was another quote that clearly resonated with the audience. In describing modern career paths, Sandberg said, “It’s not a ladder. It’s a jungle gym.”
Sandberg acknowledged that corporate America is a tough place for women, but she said women do a lot to undermine themselves. “We underestimate our own potential relative to men, we underestimate our own performance, relative to men, and this is what’s most important,” she said.
Another Sandberg pet peeve: Many women forgo opportunities because they are worried about having a family later.
“If you want the option to stay in the workforce, keep your foot on the gas pedal, reach for opportunities until you actually have a child,” said Sandberg. “That’s what might get you promoted, where you’ll have more control over your schedule, not less.”
Sandberg’s book “Lean In” has drawn fiery criticism for putting too much pressure on women, and for ignoring the challenges faced by those who don’t have the resources and support enjoyed by a Facebook executive.
Moderator Tamala Edwards of 6ABC didn’t ask Sandberg about the chorus of critical voices in response to the book, and the executive only touched on it briefly.
“I’m grateful that so many people are talking about my book, and that we’re having a national conversation,” said Sandberg. “It’s not always an easy conversation, but we’re having a national conversation on women, and that is fantastic.”
Consultant Vanessa Chan was in the audience. She says Sandberg’s advice is solid, but it may not inspire everybody.
“It may be because the path she has chosen doesn’t resonate for others,” Chan said. “That’s OK. We don’t all have to be the same people, and have the same path.”
Chan said she especially enjoyed Sandberg’s advice on creating equality at home and in the work place.
The event was put together by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia and the Free Library.