Oprah: Tell me, what are the three biggest mistakes women make in the workplace?

Sheryl: First, not sitting at the table. Women, in general, sit off to the side of the room, and they don't speak up. I do it sometimes, too. We have to make sure women know their voices are important. Second, not making their partners real partners at home. And third, we leave before we leave. Over the years, I've seen this one so clearly. Women are worried about having careers and families, so they enter the workforce almost looking for the exit! They take their foot off the gas pedal. They lean back. While men get more responsibility and get promoted. I really believe that there are good reasons, when you have a child, to leave the workforce or work less or take a different job. But I encourage women and men to make that choice once they have the child. By making it years in advance, you don't get the right opportunities. You give up before you start.

Oprah: How do we get women—and I go through this with my staff, all working mothers—past the guilty space?

Sheryl: Oh, I don't have the answer to that.

Oprah: How did you get past it?

Sheryl: I am not past it. You know, my husband and I have two careers, we have two kids; we share responsibilities. When we're in town—and one of us is almost always in town—we leave the office at 5:30 to be home for dinner. But when I drop my kids off at school and see other mothers who are staying all day to volunteer, I still feel the heart pang. Would my kids be better off if I were staying, too? Meanwhile, my husband thinks we're heroes for getting home so early.

Oprah: Boy, when you said publicly that you leave the office at 5:30—I mean, people who know that I know you were coming up to me and saying, "The next time you see Sheryl, please tell her thank you for that." Did you recognize how powerful that admission would be for working women?

Sheryl: No! It was the craziest thing. I was just talking to a reporter about my schedule. Though to be fair, the first time I said it, in a meeting at Facebook, I was nervous. Because we've been taught as women never to admit having anything else to do.

Oprah: Yes. Yes.

Sheryl: So when I admitted it internally, I wanted to communicate to everyone else that they could also leave when they needed to. Then I took down my guard in an interview and said it again, and my friend called to say that I couldn't have gotten more headlines if I'd murdered someone with an ax!

Oprah: But you're glad you did it.

Sheryl: Oh, yeah. I got flowers from strangers saying, "Thank you!" I believe that if we can't talk about this, then how can we fix it?

Next: The secret to balancing work and home life


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