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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's shares three tips for India women to attain equality

 27 July 2014
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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's shares three tips for India women to attain equality

Sheryl Sandberg leaned in at a conference in Delhi - and told the FICCI ladies to get their posture right. She is the chief operating officer of Facebook, but she was there as the author of Lean In - the best-selling book that asked women to stop making excuses and give it their all because, oh yes, they can have it all: work and life, the briefcase and the baby. Yet, it is the combination that is irresistible. A successful woman with a manifesto for a successful life. "People ask me, 'How do you do it all? "My husband is a CEO. He has the same two kids that I have. But he has never been asked this question."  Her philosophy is implied in it: if it is doable for him, it's doable for her.

"The world is still run by men and I kind of think we can do it better," she said to expected, warm applause in a room filled mostly with women. And she had her formula ready. She spoke about the three things that women can do to gain equality. Three? Just three? The bite-sized pronouncements that sound so easy may have had her critics bristling, but Sandberg retorts: "I'm arguing for pretty deep societal changes and I'm not apologetic about it."

Address stereotypes that keep women back

"If a man succeeds, it is because of his skill," she said. "If a woman succeeds, it is because she worked hard, got lucky and had a lot of help from others." Don't reinforce these stereotypes, Sandberg warned.

"How many women here have been called bossy?" she asked. Women are not expected to lead, so when they do, they are at once called aggressive. "I want my daughter to succeed and be liked for it. She should be told that she is result-oriented, not bossy." It is these home anecdotes and home truths that work for Sandberg. She spots the flaws in the system very well and voices them loud and clear. It is her prescription that you may have a problem with, if at all.

Ensure equal and fair treatment for women

"Gender inequality is not a problem of a particular culture; it exists across cultures. We have it in India as well as in America. It is a cross-cultural problem," Sandberg said. At work and at home, put gender on the table and discuss it. "We need more women in leadership roles" and when that happens, there will be more effective implementation of rules that ensure fair treatment of women, that ensure women feel safe and secure, she said.
(And here is the point that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee needs to ponder on once she is done feeling "sad" over what her party MP Tapas Pal allegedly said: "I will let loose my boys in your homes and they will rape you." And there is the Mamata moment that Sandberg needs to ponder on.)

Achieve more balance in our homes

"I tell men, if you want to make your wife happy, don't buy flowers, do laundry,said Sandberg. In any country in the world, women have to work full time, she said. In the US, women spend 30-40 per cent more time doing household work than men. In India, women spend 10 times more time in house work than men. But this can change, she said. "My grandmother didn't drive because my grandfather did not think women should. It takes only one generation for certain things to change."

If there is one thing that the new debate on work-life balance has emphasised, it is that men need to lean in and listen when women talk.

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