Photo: Rob Howard
Oprah: Were you surprised by the reaction to your TED talk in 2010? Why did you decide to talk about these issues?
Sheryl: Well, as a businesswoman, you are taught—I'm sure you were taught this—to never mention gender.
Oprah: You never cry and you never mention gender.
Sheryl: But by the time I was invited to speak at TEDWomen, I'd been in the workforce a long time, and at every stage, I'd seen men in my office asking for new responsibilities. And the women, even when I'd say, "You really should take on this new job," would say, "I'm not sure I'm ready." Men, in general, apply for promotions when they meet 60 percent of the criteria. Women, 100 percent!
Sheryl: And I wanted to talk about this. So despite all the advice I'd gotten in the past, I decided to just get onstage and talk about being a woman and the challenges we face. And the talk went viral, and I started getting letters from women all over the world.
Oprah: You saw women, as a result of your TED talk, start speaking up for themselves.
Sheryl: That's right. So I decided I needed to face my own fears and write this book.
Oprah: Why were you scared to write it?
Sheryl: My first draft had all kinds of studies and nothing about me. But you told me—
Oprah: Nobody wants to read about studies. We want to know what Ms. Sheryl is doing on a day-to-day basis! How you're doing it.
Sheryl: At first I didn't even want my picture on the cover, but I heard your voice in my head. You'd said, "Don't do the book if you're not gonna put yourself in it." You and others pushed me to open up about myself and the things that have been hard for me. We all feel like we don't belong at the table.
Oprah: Sheryl, I find that so hard to believe with all you have accomplished. But in the book you say that in 2011, when you were on the Forbes "World's Most Powerful Women" list, you had trouble with that, too.
Sheryl: I was embarrassed. People kept saying, "Congratulations!" And I'd say, "Don't talk about it." Finally my assistant took me aside and said, "You are handling this terribly. You deserve to be on that list. You're showing everyone how insecure you are."
Oprah: You said that women are perceived as less likable as they become more successful. So how do we "lean in" to our careers without appearing to be arrogant? Because that's what we fear. The question I feared for years was, who does she think she is?
Sheryl: Well, short-term, we have to be what others have called "relentlessly pleasant." Men don't have to worry about smiling, or explaining why they're asking for a raise. A man can say, "I want a raise because I deserve it." A woman has to explain not just why she deserves it but why it's good for the company. "I'm so devoted to this company, I want to continue to be able to do my job...." That's just the way it is. The long-term answer is to change the numbers and the stereotypes. If more women are in leadership roles, we'll stop assuming they shouldn't be.
Next: The 3 common mistakes women make at work
We Hear You!