Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 08/9/2011

An Ode To Sheryl Sandberg’s Awesomeness

I love Sheryl Sandberg

I love Sheryl Sandberg

I’m always bitching about how few really positive female role models are out there for young girls. Considering the celebrities we have worshiped / continue to worship - Snooki, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton – it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to wonder why so many girls are more concerned with partying than studying and why their number one life goal is to date a rock star rather than become the first female president.

But that is exactly why it’s so important to focus on the women who are positive role models – who are doing amazing things in the world and whom young girls everywhere should be looking up to. Enter Sheryl Sandberg.

Sheryl Sandberg has been on my radar for a little while. She gave this year’s commencement speech at Barnard , which I watched on YouTube and found extremely impressive. I later watched her TED talk, which, although it predated her Barnard speech, didn’t enter my sphere of consciousness until a couple months ago. Most recently I read the recent New Yorker piece which profiled her. That is when I began to develop a legitimate girl crush.

Yes, while my friends girl crush on the likes of Blake Lively and contestants on America’s Next Top Model, I’m flipping out about Facebook’s 41-year-old COO. Story of my life.

I could go on and on about why Sandberg is a worthy role model, but I think the thing that I most appreciate about her is how she makes feminism an individual pursuit. She looks to make progress not on behalf of millions of other women, but rather advocates for herself and her individual accomplishments, which in turn shows the world what all women are capable of. It’s not that advocating for others isn’t important – it obviously is. But I think it’s equally as important to actually go out there and get shit done instead of just talking about what needs to change and telling everybody else to change. Sandberg makes the change herself.

Specifically, in Sandberg’s TED talk about women in the work force, she puts aside the issues of flex-time and work-life balance (while still admitting they’re important) to talk about what each individual woman can do in the workplace. She preaches the message of “Sit at the table,” (be more active and involved in your work); “make your partner a real partner” (share household responsibilities, co-parent, etc.); and “don’t leave before you leave” (don’t hold back in your work because you think one day you’ll leave to have a family).

I think we can all agree that the waves of feminism before us have done amazing work in breaking barriers and allowing us to really be in the workplace at all. I think it’s true that sexism and discrimination still exists there. But I think what Sandberg says about my generation and the generation before us still hanging on to more traditional, domestic values and pursuits is true: we need to be more willing to dedicate ourselves to our work or we can never really expect equality there.

Her message of finding something you really love to do is also very important. Personally, I know that because I have found something I love to do (writing) I find it very hard to believe that anything could sway me to stop doing it in the future, despite whether or not I get married and have children. But even now when we talk about our futures, I already hear friends of mine who don’t have such a clear direction or passion saying that eventually they’ll just raise a family, or they’re planning on marrying their current boyfriends – as doing so is just the default if they can’t think of anything else they’d rather do.

Sandberg’s message is one of encouraging passion and self-respect. It’s one of taking care of yourself and reaching your potential first before you give yourself to others. And it’s unequivocally a message of girl power.

Don’t worry. I’m willing to share my girl crush.

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  • Matt SS @ at 12:05 am, August 10th, 2011

    I don’t think having more positive female role models is going to do anything. Dudes have plenty of positive role models and most of my male friends, regardless of academic involvement, are super concerned about partying. Rebelling against authority and society is just a natural function of adolescence.

  • Miriam @ at 9:47 am, August 10th, 2011

    Did you read the article about her in the New Yorker? It was great!

    @Matt–I think the difference is that the role models young men CHOOSE to look up to generally aren’t, say, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. They’re the party guys they see on TV.

    I guess you could say the same about young women, though. There are plenty of great role models out there; but many women choose not to focus their attention on those.

  • Vanessa M @ at 6:54 am, August 11th, 2011

    Glad to see that someone else knows that we need REAL role models here. I mean, I’m only in junior high and the effects of negative role models are already terrifying me…

  • Matt SS @ at 6:54 pm, August 13th, 2011

    @Miriam
    Choose is a strong word. Men and women have the same amount of choice in who they look up to. Its possible there are fewer options for girls, though. But there are no rock star lawyers and doctors and teachers that guys want to be like. I mean, there are sports stars, but its not so much the sport, as what being a star gives you that matters to guys.

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