Sheryl Sandberg is a woman that needs little introduction. She is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, author of the bestseller “Lean In”-a book that has been called the new feminist manifesto and one of the most successful women in this country. Now available in Spanish, Vayamos Adelante, published by Vintage Español has been modified to include data on Hispanic women and a prologue by Michelle Bachelet- former president of Chile. TintaFresca spoke with Sandberg about her book and her perspective on Hispanic women in the U.S.
As you point out in your book, women often hold themselves back from pursuing their dreams because of how our society views success. Hispanic women also have cultural barriers that hold us back, how can we overcome them? The core issue that women face are cultural barriers and these barriers exist for women all over the world and they are based on their own culture. The point of Vayamos Adelante (Lean In) is to create an open dialog to address these barriers. One of the overall barriers women face in every culture in the world is that we applaud men for leading and we discourage women from doing so. For example we say a little girl is “bossy” and a little boy is a “leader”.
What qualities have you observed in Hispanic women that are an asset for their professional success? I think Hispanic women, like all women, have a lot of qualities that are great for the workplace. Women tend to be better listeners, tend to be very inclusive managers, and are often great team builders but I think these same qualities hold us back. We expect men to advocate for themselves and to lead and we expect women not to.
You discuss the importance of having a mentor or to be one. What advice would you give young Hispanic women in seeking a mentor? The issue of women being alone with men is an issue for all women. Data shows that 64% of managers in the U.S. are concern of being alone with a woman. That is a bad situation for us to be in because mentorship is about being able to speak confidentially. We need to tell men, and women, that it is a badge of honor for them to be a mentor. This does not mean that he has to go to dinner alone with a woman; they can speak where there are other people around. But I think we also need to tell young women that we can do a lot of this ourselves by forming groups and getting together, women supporting women is very important.
We often see women in the workplace be less than supportive of other women, at times even less so than men, why do you think this happens? Data shows that any group that has been historically discriminated against, when the first members break into the power structure, they take on the characteristics of the majority in power. That is not to say this happened in every culture but it does in many. But I think those days are gone and this new generation can ban together. I also think that our expectations of men and women are different.