This Was The Moment When Sheryl Sandberg Realized How Women Hold Themselves Back

Business Insider

Sheryl Sandberg is getting a ton of press — including a Time magazine cover — before her book, "Lean In," is released on Monday.

The Facebook COO says "it is sort of a feminist manifesto, but one that I hope inspires men as much as it inspires women."

Her argument that women should take more risks and responsibility for their own success can be summed up with this great anecdote in her book:

A few years ago, I hosted a meeting for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner at Facebook. We invited fifteen executives from across Silicon Valley for breakfast and a discussion about the economy. Secretary Geithner arrived with four members of his staff, two senior and two more junior, and we all gathered in our one nice conference room. After the usual milling around, I encouraged the attendees to help themselves to the buffet and take a seat. Our invited guests, mostly men, grabbed plates and food and sat down at the large conference table. Secretary Geithner's team, all women, took their food last and sat in chairs off to the side of the room. I motioned for the women to come sit at the table, waving them over publicly so they would feel welcomed. They demurred and remained in their seats.

The four women had every right to be at this meeting, but because of their seating choice, they seemed like spectators rather than participants. I knew I had to say something. So after the meeting, I pulled them aside to talk. I pointed out that they should have sat at the table even without an invitation, but when publicly welcomed, they most certainly should have joined. At first, they seemed surprised, then they agreed.

It was a watershed moment for me. A moment when I witnessed how an internal barrier can alter women's behavior. A moment when I realized that in addition to facing institutional obstacles, women face a battle from within.

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