Sheryl Sandberg: ‘Until Women Are As Ambitious As Men, They’re Not Going To Achieve As Much’

By this point, women in technology, especially those in powerful positions, are probably tired of hearing about: Women in technology. But, tonight, during a conversation with Charlie Rose, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was asked exactly that: If the tech industry is today a place where women can find the level of opportunity that she, as a top executive at one of the world’s most well-known companies, would like them to be able to find.

Sandberg holds that women have made an incredible amount of progress in both higher education and management, gaining a larger share (if not taking the lead from men) in college and graduate degrees and leadership roles. But the glass ceiling refuses to crack completely. “Over the last ten years”, Sandberg tells Rose, “women have stalled out at the top”.

In corporate America, she continues, women hold only 15 to 16 percent of the board seats and top level positions like CEO — women’s share of those top positions really hasn’t changed much in the last ten years or so.

Rose: Let me talk two things about, one you, the empowerment of women and then a sense of who you represent. This is a place that you are — you stand out because you and Marissa [Mayer] and a few others, you know, is — is technology a place that women can find the kind of opportunity that you want them to find? Does it need mentoring and all kinds of other things that people like Sheryl Sandberg can deliver?

Sandberg: Look, I think the issue of women in the economy and the country is a huge one. It’s something that I care passionately about and Mark cares passionately about and has helped me too. You know, we have basically a stalled revolution for women. You know, women became 50 percent of the college graduates in this country in 1981 and then made steady progress, more college degrees, more graduate degrees, more manager positions. Over — and we’re still making progress. Over the last ten years, women have stalled out at the top. Women in corporate America have 15 to 16 percent of the board seats and of the kind of CEO [spelled phonetically], the high-level jobs, and that has not moved in ten years.

Rose: Why?

Sandberg: Oh, it’s probably longer than we have time for. A lot of reasons, but I really think we need more women to lean into their careers and to be really dedicated to staying in the work force. I think the achievement gap is caused by a lot of things. It’s caused by institutional barriers and all kinds of stuff. But there’s also a really big ambition gap. If you survey men and women in college today in this country, the men are more ambitious than the women. And until women are as ambitious as men, they’re not going to achieve as much as men …

While the sum total of the translation of the Zuck/Sandberg interview is a formidable beast of text, it’s definitely worth the read. And worth watching when it airs tonight on PBS (midnight for you California folks out there).

And here are some more good reads on women and technology: “Too Few Women In Tech? Stop Blaming Me.” by Mike Arrington, “Women and Tech: Focus On Female Consumers And The Founders Will Follow” by Christina Brodbeck, “Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different” by Vivek Wadhwa, and “Why Women Rule The Internet” by Aileen Lee.