Oprah: Was there ever a discussion in your house about one of you staying home?

Sheryl: No, because we both knew we wanted to work. But there were a lot of discussions to get us to 50-50 in terms of household responsibilities. One of the things I really want all women out there to know is that almost no men come fully trained. And we don't, either, for that matter.

Oprah: I love that—fully trained!

Sheryl: The biggest decision you make in life and in your career is, are you going to have a life partner, and if so, who? I tell girls, date the crazy boys, the bad boys. Enjoy that. But do not marry them. Because what is sexy when you're 23 is not sexy when you are 43. What's sexy where I am is my husband driving my kids to school.

Oprah: Oh, that is sexy. [Laughter.] So you got married for the first time at 24, and were divorced within a year.

Sheryl: Yes.

Oprah: What did that teach you?

Sheryl: Don't do that! I didn't know myself well enough. I married a wonderful man, and we're still friends. But I wasn't ready. And for the longest time after that, no matter what I accomplished professionally, I felt like I had this scarlet letter D on my chest. I even passed up a job at one point because I didn't want to move back to the city where he lived. In hindsight, I was leaning back.

Oprah: So how did you learn to lean in?

Sheryl: Well, I still have to remind myself to lean in all the time. When I was in college, I heard a speech about feeling like a fraud. I thought it was the best speech I'd ever heard. This impostor syndrome, as they call it, is common among women. When a man is successful, he believes it's because of what he did, his skills. A woman will attribute her success to luck, help from others, and to working hard. And even if you're confident enough to own your success, the world will attribute it, for most of us, to luck.

Oprah: Oh my gosh, you are preaching to the choir. Years ago an executive at my company, Harpo, turned to me—I can't even remember what had happened—and said, "Maybe it isn't all luck with you." [Laughter.]

Sheryl: We do it to ourselves, and the world does it to us.

Oprah: You say that Gloria Steinem, who marched in the streets to fight for the opportunities so many of us now take for granted, quoted Susan B. Anthony saying, "Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going."

Sheryl: I think that's important. We need to be grateful for what we have. I have so many more opportunities than my grandmother had. But we also need to be a little dissatisfied. We're not using the full talents of our population. If we do—if we draw on the full talents of women in the workforce, and men at home—our companies will be more efficient and more effective, and our kids better off because they have involved fathers in happier marriages. This is good for everyone.

Oprah: Sheryl, thank you for this time. I'd love a copy of Lean In to send to each of the girls at my school.

Sheryl: Of course!

More O Talks


Next Story