InDay Speaker Series: Sheryl Sandberg and Gina Bianchini

April 5, 2013

Each month, we invite luminaries from around the world to the LinkedIn campus to share their insights with LinkedIn employees.

Last week, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and Gina Bianchini, Founder & CEO of Mightybell and Co-Founder of Lean In, joined me for a fireside chat. I have known Sheryl and Gina for years and admire them both personally and professionally. The book is a gift and I recommend reading the whole thing.

I was delighted to sit with them to discuss Sheryl’s new book and Lean In, the foundation they created to promote change. Here are a few actionable points from our discussion.

The Success and Likeability Penalty: One of the more enlightening chapters in Lean In focuses on the inverse correlation between success and likability for a professional woman. Sheryl demonstrates through good argument that the more successful a woman gets, the more she is likely to be penalized in the workplace when it comes to promotions, raises, and opportunities, whereas the more successful a man becomes, the more support he receives.

Sheryl gives good tactical advice on being likeable while being successful: ask good questions, smile a lot, and more. Of course ultimately this advice should become obsolete: the culture should change such that a woman shouldn’t have to compensate for or be self-conscious of her success.

Work and Home Balance: On having it all: As a man in the business world, I am rarely asked how I balance my professional commitments with my personal life.  Nor has the question of whether I can “have it all” ever been directed my way. Yet women who pursue both a rewarding career and an active personal life as a mother face these questions constantly. The implication is that women must choose one or the other, or else she will shortchange both.

Work and home balance is a hard challenge, but the solution certainly begins with finding the right life partner. Sheryl devotes an entire chapter to the topic for good reason: her husband Dave (also a good friend of mine) is fundamental to her success, just as Sheryl is to Dave’s. With a true partnership at home, they are each able to flourish as parents and as professionals.

The critics prove the point: There are a number of misconceptions regarding Lean In, mostly from people who haven’t read the book. For example, some say that Sheryl’s own success somehow makes her message irrelevant to a less successful and less wealthy general population. It’s true that this is a book about the path to leadership – it’s for women who aspire to serious professional achievement.  But in a sense, this criticism validates Sheryl’s underlying point. After all, if Jack Welch had written a book on leadership, would we say it only applies to already-successful people because Welch himself is in an elite orbit? Hardly.

Building our future, men and women alike: More talented women leaning in helps all of us. As Gina pointed out, if women majored in computer science at the same levels as men, we’d solve the engineering talent gap in Silicon Valley. In this way, “leaning in” is at least as important an issue as immigration.

Sheryl and Gina founded the Lean In organization to create a community where both men and women can find and offer inspiration, share their experiences and gain access to the types of tools that can help each of us lean in a bit more each day.


I strongly believe we are all better off with more women in leadership roles. Sheryl has started a conversation with Lean In about how to do this; now it’s up to each of us to make sure we’re acting on its advice.

Photo Credit: Monika Evje Photography

Editor's Note: This post was originally published by Reid Hoffman on the LinkedIn Influencer platform.