A recent study shows that companies with more gender-balanced boards are more effective than their peers. According to the research, the lack of diversity in boards in the USA, UK and India leads to US$655 billion in cost of opportunity. Still, advancement for women in the workplace remains stagnant and -in some industries- the situation is even going backwards.

Why we have too few women leaders

In her original talk from 2010, ‘Why we have too few women leaders’ at TED, Sharyl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, discusses this question.

“Women face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfilment”, Sandberg asserts. The complexity of the challenges involved requires deep transformations at different levels (social, personal). Conscious that the solution is not simple, she proposes 3 ideas to change the current conditions.

  1. Sit at the table. The underlying message is that women tend to underestimate their own abilities. Sandberg argues that many studies seem to confirm something that I have also seen in my experience in leadership development: women will tend to be cautious and downplay their skills when they are presented with the opportunity of taking the lead. Unfortunately, I have also seen the other side of the story: talented women standing forwards and being rejected because of their manager’s prejudice. As executives we should beware of this prejudice and support women who stand up for opportunities.
  2. Make your partner a real partner. As a society, our expectations for success tend to be different for boys and girls. Early in our lives, we learn that is socially accepted for girls to stay at home, while boys have to succeed in a professional career. Based on some studies, Sandberg makes the case that couples sharing responsibilities and opportunities have a more fulfilling life.
  3. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg suggests that women tend to think ahead in their future, giving up opportunities too early in their career. Her suggestion is to accelerate their development early in their career, while they have more flexibility. In my experience as a coach and as talent manager, this sort of conversations are common with female executives, so as supporting executives we should encourage staying in the game.

Overall, this talk presents very valuable points. At Development Space, we believe that this is an excellent point to start the conversation on this topic and to propose alternatives, would you like to join us? We look forwards to hearing your comments and feedback.

This article was originally published on Development Space.

Video source: Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders | YouTube ID: 18uDutylDa4 | Retrieve date: 19 May 2016 | TED, 21 Dec 2010