Courage is the ultimate fashion statement

by | Mar 7, 2015

Why doesn't Sheryl Sandberg wear a hoodie?


Sheryl Sandberg photo shopped into  Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie

Sheryl Sandberg photo shopped into Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie

During a recent 3Plus mini-coaching on Executive Presence, Dorothy Dalton, remarked that even Sheryl Sandberg, one of the most powerful and accomplished businesswomen in the world, was held to a higher standard than Mark Zuckerberg. Both worked for Facebook, but Sheryl was clearly putting in a bit more effort to dress to impress.

The presenter also pointed out that in a photo of a particular interview, Sheryl had her legs crossed politely like a lady, while Mark Zuckerberg had a more expansive, open posture, not afraid to take up space or engage with the audience. He did something great, and as a result, can say, “screw it,” and wear a hoodie if he wants to. In fact, he could probably care less about what Sheryl wears as long as she does her job.

But does Sheryl need to dress “properly,” in order to feel confident and gain acceptance? Does acceptance generate confidence?

This comment intrigued me, because it hinted at a much larger issue.  Why are women trying so hard to impress? Why aren’t women powerful enough to wear hoodies?

[Tweet "Why doesn't Sheryl Sandberg wear a hoodie? "]

Personally, I’d rather be Mark Zuckerberg. Why didn’t Sheryl Sandberg start Facebook? Why is Mark Zuckerberg her boss instead of the other way around?

That’s the real gender gap.

 I have some ideas on why it persists, and how to overcome it.

Now, I don’t personally know Sheryl Sandberg, and I don’t claim to know her motivations in life. But let’s take her as a case study of high-powered, high-achieving women who is not the boss.  I have the utmost respect for her as a professional and admire the work she does. But still, something about her reminds me uncomfortably of issues I struggle with myself, which you might be able to understand too.

  • Women are afraid to fail. Straight-A Sheryl just didn’t have the guts to start Facebook. She’d rather be excelling in a role created for her by someone else and climbing an imaginary ladder where she knows where she stands in a social hierarchy than take the risk of starting her own enterprise, where it would be difficult to measure herself against others.


  • Women are too busy trying hard to please and impress in all domains of life. There’s only so many hours in the day and even though Sheryl probably only sleeps for 5-6, she is probably spreading herself too thin making sure she excels in school, in sports, having the perfect outfit, and being everyone’s best friend to start a company. And when it comes down to it, she’s afraid of upsetting someone by dropping the ball in terms of some imagined obligation to blaze her own trail.


[Tweet ""After all, what if she fails? Who will like her then?""]


  • Women are afraid to be great.  Even if there was a guarantee of success and Sheryl’s energy, ambition, and competence are as close as anyone can come to that at some level, it’s extremely terrifying to think you might be the most powerful person in the room, on your own terms. While Sheryl has an intrinsic desire to be the best among others, she is afraid to claim greatness for herself and create her own meaning, her own definition, and write her own story. It is much easier and safer to be the best friend than the leading lady.


Why do women have these fears? That is a complex and difficult question, and many experts have ideas on how to make women less afraid and make the world a less frightening place for women.

But the real problem is not fear,  it’s a lack of courage.

[Tweet "Mark Twain said, "Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.""]

The only person who could really control whether Sheryl Sandberg worked for a promising start-up  to get an a “career rocketship,”as she urged in a commencement address for Harvard Business School, or decide to build her own rocket, was Sheryl.

And the only person who decides whether you are the heroine of your own story and wear what you like, and do what you like, and bear the consequences and reap the rewards of your choices is

Courage is not an accessory to be taken out only for grand occasions, it is lightwear armor, more versatile than a little black dress. It doesn’t stop the blows from stinging, but it can allow you to keep pushing forward.

[Tweet "When you dare to design your own life, you can make any fashion statement you choose."]

Photo credit Maja Jurkovic




Megan Jones Contributor
Megan is a graduate of the Fox School's one-year Tri-Continent International MBA candidate (IMBA) progam. Currently living the American in Paris dream.
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