Ambition Contradiction


In her speech last month at TED, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made the usual observation about the lack of women in high places.

But rather than patter about the need for flex-time or mentoring, Sandberg—a mother of two, and one of the few in the C suite—plunged straight into the ambition conundrum:

“Women face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfillment.”

“This speech comes with no judgments,” Sandberg added, “I don’t have the right answer, I don’t even have it for myself.”

But she had some damn good ideas. Her talk is only 15 minutes, and (we never say this) it could change your life. Her three main points:


Sit at the table. Too often women sideline themselves, downplaying their roles and ideas. Join in, speak up.


Make your partner a partner. “We have made more progress in the workforce than we have in the home,” Sandberg says. Successful women need supportive partners—and so do men. Push for that balance.  


Keep your foot on the gas. Too many women “quietly lean back” in their jobs or careers, worried about juggling work and family—even before they have kids, Sandberg says. 


Instead, build a career you love, while you can. “Your job better be really good to go back to, because it’s really hard to leave that kid at home.”

Turn it up. How has your ambition been muted?

Join the Discussion