I attended the Makers Conference last week in Rancho Palos Verdes and still have goose bumps from how inspiring it was. If you’re not familiar with the event, it’s a forum that brings together hundreds of trailblazing women leaders with a goal of not only elevating the conversation about women in the workforce, but also raising challenges and solutions through storytelling and action-oriented sessions.
This year’s theme encouraged all attendees to Be Bold—and as I listened to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speak on “A New Workplace” session, it struck me just how true to that theme Facebook has been.
On February 7, Sandberg announced an expansion of its already commendable family leave policies. The new policy allows employees to take six weeks of paid leave to care for a sick family member, up to 20 days of bereavement leave, and three days of paid family sick time to help care for a family member with a short-term illness. These benefits piggyback onto Facebook’s existing parental leave policies, which were extended last November to offer four months of paid baby leave to all parents for childbirth and adoption, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Clearly, these new policies will play a powerful role in assisting Facebook’s employees in their various family caregiving responsibilities, enabling better work-life balance that facilitates career growth for both genders. But what’s also notable is that this decision was made by a male CEO. Mark Zuckerberg—who Sandberg noted in a recent Facebook post “made sure our parental leave policy covered both moms and dads long before I got to Facebook and led by example by taking parental leave after [his son] Max was born”—represents the new world in leadership mindsets.
That’s because Facebook’s announcement changes the rules for their employees, making it finally feasible to integrate work and life in a company-supported way, without having to step off of the career track. The inability for employees to do this—which is still the case at most companies in America—has proven to be a significant roadblock to women pursuing a successful and enduring career. Now, thanks to the bold moves of Zuckerberg and Sandberg, it’s becoming possible in certain quarters at long last.
But what about people who work for organizations that are less forward-thinking than Facebook and others leading the charge in this arena? This announcement is significant for them too, because when one leader is bold and steps out, others may be inspired to follow. And it’s not just companies that can make a difference—individuals can too. The Makers Conference reinforced the importance of women taking the initiative to get involved now! Now more than ever, it’s important to be bold. Show courage every day, and take the lead to make gender equality a reality.
As Gloria Steinem shared with me at the event: “Today we strive for gender equality, and tomorrow there will be no gender. It will be all of us as leaders.” She’s right, and in order to get there, each and every one of us needs to disrupt old narratives about leadership models that are less inclusive.
Instead, we must join with the growing number of companies that are embracing Inclusive Leadership as a new model that facilitates bringing all voices on deck. Women and men need to blend their unique voices and perspectives into a unified narrative that reflects the true breadth and diversity of our collective ideas. When we do this, we’ll be in the perfect position to address and navigate the new realities of today’s world—together.
Rebecca is an internationally acclaimed and sought-after keynote speaker, leadership expert and contributing editor for Harvard Business Review and the Huffington Post.
Learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s leadership solutions and how they can build and sustain gender balance across your organization. Accelerate your female talent through SHAMBAUGH’s customized In-House Leadership Programs for women and our signature Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL) Program. For more information visit: www.shambaughleadership.com
Rebecca is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton, and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results.