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Career Advice from 5 Powerful Silicon Valley Women

5 impressive female leaders in the tech world give their ceiling-shattering advice.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.


Sure, I could kick off this article with all sorts of glum stats about the lack of women in top spots in business in general and in the IT fields in particular. Heck, I’ve been in tech since I was 15, so I know it firsthand. This is the most shocking of the bunch: women hold just 11 percent of the executive positions in Silicon Valley tech companies. Picture all those boardroom table meetings –and all those decisions being made– with only one woman in the room for every nine men. Blech. It’s bleak, I know.

Career Advice from 5 Powerful Silicon Valley Women

But it’s getting better.

Want proof? Check out this article from The New Yorker that details the ways the hole in the glass ceiling is getting larger. Yes, there are obvious problems with gender diversity in the tech fields and yes, we have miles to go. But some women have risen to the top and are empowering a new generation of women in the industry with their success.

Not only does gender equality provide diverse ideas, but it also fosters the next generation of female leaders by providing like-minded role models and mentors that are often instrumental to one’s success.

Women need to help women to succeed. And in that spirit, here’s a look at five of the most influential and inspiring women in Silicon Valley; how they got there and their glass ceiling-shattering advice:

 

Sheryl Sandberg

Career Advice from 5 Powerful Silicon Valley Women“I think now is our time. My mother was told by everyone that she had two choices: She could be a nurse or a teacher. The external barriers now are just so much lower. If we start acknowledging what the real issues are, we can solve them. It’s not that hard.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is the most vocal and successful advocate in silicon valley (and perhaps the world) for helping women get to leadership positions. Her books Lean In and Lean In for Graduates (which you can listen to via an Audible free trial) are essential reading for any woman in the workforce and/or trying to start a career.

In high school, she taught aerobics and was “always at the top of her class”. She graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and was awarded the prize for the top graduating student in economics. While at Harvard, she co-founded an organization called Women in Economics and Government. Her then-professor Larry Summers recruited her to be his research assistant at the World Bank, where she worked for approximately one year on health projects in India dealing with leprosy, AIDS, and blindness. She then worked with him while serving as Chief of Staff at the Treasury under President Bill Clinton.

After working as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company, followed by a long-time stint as an executive at Google, Sandberg joined Facebook as COO in 2009. She currently serves on the board of directors for Starbucks, the Center for Global Development, Walt Disney Studios, V-Day and Women for Women International.

With her Facebook stock options, Sandberg is estimated to be worth more than a billion dollars and was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

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A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she spends most of her time in France, NYC, London and Switzerland, and travels extensively around the world. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 153 Comments

  1. Meghan Medina

    I’ve recently discovered that a big contributor to the glass ceiling syndrome is the ‘sticky floor’ phenomenon – making yourself so indispensable at a lower level that your employer won’t promote you because they can’t find anyone else to do that dull but essential job as well as you can. Stepping off that sticky floor can require a huge amount of assertive discussion.

  2. Kelly Osborne

    The women in this article strived harde than everyone else. So should you in order to be on the same level as them. Although you have to keep in mind that there may be differences in the field and level of achievements, you know what I mean.

  3. Maxine Hanson

    To get ahead and reach the leadership level you want, you need to champion and market yourself. That means proactively managing every step of your career. If you can’t seem to break through a glass ceiling, you might have to work harder than others. We can’t all be exactly the type of upper management person our company wants. What we can do is develop the skills that the company values. Arm yourself with a development plan as well as the help of your boss, a strong network, and, hopefully, a mentor. You can then build and showcase the skills that will help you climb the corporate ladder. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and you may find new zones of opportunity.

  4. Tara Norman

    While there have been gains in the numbers of people who were formerly underrepresented in senior positions, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Carefully managing your career will help you to better navigate the management channels. It might just help you see that maybe you’re in the wrong channel and your energy needs to be someplace else where you can fully grow.

  5. Katie Rodgers

    There are lot of things that women can do in order to break the glass ceiling. One of it is to be the best version of themselves and to set sail in unusual teritory. It’s bound to be an experience and a long journey, but how can success be achieved if you kept swimming in familiar waters?

  6. Verna Clarke

    These women are inspirational, and let’s take their word for it in order to be better in the workforce.

  7. Hannah Rose

    Let’s be one with those women who broke the glass ceiling.

  8. Leticia Bass

    Your comfort zone isn’t synonymous to success. Getting out of it is.

  9. Mamie Thomas

    Work hard, ladies. In time you’ll be able to achieve things you didn’t think you could!

  10. Rachael Patrick

    You’re a strong woman that can’t be bound to rules and restrictions. You deserve to be successful.

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