Sheryl: Oh, yeah. Some people said terrible things. One blog took pictures of me and superimposed a gun in my hands, and wrote LIAR across my face. And everywhere I went, people would say, "Oh, don't worry," which told me they were reading this stuff.
Oprah: I've been there.
Sheryl: I lost some sleep. I cried. But Mark was hugely supportive. And there was only one answer, which was to keep my head down and make the company successful.
Oprah: So tell me, as long as we're talking about women internalizing comments about them—is it also true that women and men can be doing the very same thing and people view it differently?
Sheryl: Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, what works for men does not always work for women, because success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. That's what the research shows. As a man gets more successful, everyone is rooting for him. As a woman gets more successful, both men and women like her less. And I think part of why I wrote a book on this topic is because until about five years ago, I didn't know that. I'd experienced it, like all women do. When I was in high school, I was voted most likely to succeed.
Oprah: Of course you were.
Sheryl: But I went and told the person who was running the yearbook, a friend of mine, to get me out of that.
Oprah: And she did?
Sheryl: Yes. And the question is, why? For most of my life, I instinctively didn't talk about things that went well for me. I didn't understand why until I happened to sit next to Deb Gruenfeld, a Stanford professor [who studies leadership], at a dinner. She helped me realize that the reason I kept my success quiet was that it would have made me less likable. I don't think any of us want to judge women negatively for their success. I don't think we even know we're doing it.
Oprah: So you have now written—I have to say, it's the new manifesto for women in the workplace. And you call it Lean In. Why?
Sheryl: Because I believe we've got to lean in to our careers—to keep our feet on the gas pedal. And we've got to encourage girls—as you have done with your school in South Africa—to do the same. Women have made tons of progress. But we still have a small percentage of the top jobs in any industry, in any nation in the world. I think that's partly because from a very young age, we encourage our boys to lead and we call our girls bossy.
Oprah: It reminds me of the story you tell in Lean In about not going to the prom.
Sheryl: I spent more time in high school worrying about getting a date to the prom than I spent worrying about math. And I was the smart girl! I did end up getting a date, but he canceled on me—a week before prom—to go to a basketball game!
Oprah: So the reason we don't want to be leaders is that we want to go to the prom.
Sheryl: That's right. No one wants to go to the prom with the smartest girl. Don't we have to change that? Your whole life, you've been telling people to be their best selves. We need to tell women that that includes leadership. And men that it includes being partners at home.
Next: Speaking up about gender in the workplace