Congratulations everyone, you made it.And I don’t mean to the end of college, I mean to class day, because if memory serves, some of your classmates had too many scorpion bowls at the Kong last night and are with us today.
Given the weather, the one thing Harvard hasn’t figured out how to control, some of your other classmates are at someplace warm with a hot cocoa, so you have many reasons to feel proud of yourself as you sit here today.
Congratulations to your parents.You have spent a lot of money, so your child can say she went to a “small school” near Boston. And thank you to the class of 2014 for inviting me to the part of your celebration. It means a great to me. And looking at the list of past speakers was a little daunting.I can’t be as funny as Amy Poehler, but I’m gonna be funnier than Mother Teresa.
25 years ago, a man named Dave I did not know at the time but who would one day become my husband was sitting where you are sitting today.23 years ago, I was sitting where you are sitting today. Dave and I are back this weekend with our amazing son and daughter to celebrate his reunion, and we both share the same sentiment, Harvard has a good basketball team.
Standing here in the yard brings memories flooding back for me.I arrived here from Miami in the fall of 1987, with big hopes and even bigger hear. I was assigned to live in one of Harvard’s historic monuments to great architecture, canady. My go-to outfit, and I’m not making this up, was a jean skirt, white leg warmers and sneakers and a Florida sweater, because my parents who were here with me then as they’re here with me now, told me everyone would think it was awesome that I was from Florida. At least we didn’t have Instagram.
For me, Harvard was a series of firsts.My first winner coat, we needn’t need those in Miami. My first 10page paper, they didn’t assign those in my high school.My first C, after which my proctor told me that she was on the admissions committee, and I got admitted to Harvard for my personality not my academic potential.The first person I ever met from boarding school. I thought that was our really troubled kids.The first person I ever met who shares the name with a whole building, or so I met when the first classmate I met was Sarah Widdlesworth, who bore no relation at all to the dorm, which would have been nice to know with that very intimidating moment. But then I went on to meet others, Francis Strauss, James wells, Jessica science center B. My first love, my first heartbreak, the first time I realized that I love to learn, and the first and very last time I saw anyone read anything in Latin.
When I sat in your seat all those years ago, I knew exactly where I was headed, I had it all planned out, I was going to the world bank to work on global poverty. The I would go to law school. And I would spend my life working in a nonprofit or in a government. At Harvard’s commencement tomorrow as your dean described, each school is gonna stand up and graduate together, the college, the law school, the med school and so on. At my graduation, my class cheered for the PHD students and then booed the business school. Business school seemed like such a sellout. 18 months later, I applied to business school.
It wasn’t wrong about what I would do decades after graduating.I had it wrong a year and a half later. And even if I could have predicted I would one day work in the private sector, I never could have predicted Facebook, because there was no internet, and Mark Zuckerberg was at elementary school, already wearing his hoody. Not locking into a path too early, give me an opportunity to go into a new and life changing field. And for those of you who think I owe everything to good luck, after Canaday I got Quaded.
There is no straight path from your seat today to where you are going. Don’t try to draw that line. You will not just get it wrong. You will miss big opportunities and I mean big ,like the internet.
Careers are not ladders. Those days are long gone, but jungle gyms. Don’t just move up and down. Don’t just look up. Look backwards, sideways, around corners. Your career and your life will have starts and stops and zigs and zags. Don’t stress out about the white space, the path you can try, because there in lives both the surprises and the opportunities. As you open yourself up to possibility, the most important thing I can tell you today is to open yourself up to honesty, to telling the truth to each other, to be honesty to yourselves, and to be honest about the world we live in.
If you watched children, you will immediately notice how honest they are.My friend besty was pregnant and her son for the second child, son Sam was 5, he wanted to know where the baby was in her body. So yes mommy, are the babies arms in your arms? And she said, no no sam, baby’s in my tummy, whole baby. Mom ,are the baby’s legs in your legs? No, sam, whole baby’s in my tummy. Then mommy, what’s growing in your butt?
As adults, we are almost never dishonest and that can be a very good thing, When I was pregnant with our first child, I asked my husband Dave if my butt was getting big. At first, he didn’t answer but I pressed. So he said, yea, a little.
For years my sister-in-low said him what people will now say about you for the rest of your life when you do something done, and that guy went to Harvard.
Hearing the truth at different times along the way would have helped me. I would not have admitted it easily when I sat where you sit. But when I graduated, I was much more worried about my love life than my career. I thought I only had a few years very limited time to find one of the good guys, before he was to , or before they were all taken, or I get too old. So I moved to DC, and met the guy, and I got married at the nearly decrepit age of 24. I married a wonder a wonderful man, but I had no business making that kind of commitment. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be. My marriage fell apart within a year, something that was really embarrassing and painful at the time, and it did not help that so many friends came up to me and said:”I never knew that, never thought that was going to work or I knew you weren’t right for each other. No one had managed to say anything like that to me before I marched down an aisle when it would have been far more useful.
And as I lived through these painful months of separation and divorce, boy, did I wish the had? And boy, did I wish I had asked them? At the same time in my professional life, someone did speak up. My first boss out of college was Lant Prichett, an economist who teaches at the kennedy School who is here with us today, after I deferred to law school for the second time.Lant sat down and said I don’t think you should go to law school at all, I don’t think you want to go to law school. I think you should because you told your parents you would many years ago.He noted that he had never once heard me talk about the law with any interest.
I know how hard it can be to be honest with each other, even your closest friends, even when they’re about to make serious mistakes, but I bet sitting here today, you know your closest friends’ strength, weeknesses, what cliff they might drive off, and I bet for the most part you’ve never told them, and they never asked. Ask them. Ask them for the truth because it will help you. And when the answer honestly, you know that that’s what makes them real friends.
Asking for feedback is a really important habit to get into, as you leave the structure of the school calendar and exams and grades behind. On many jobs if you want to know how you’re doing, if you’re going to have to ask and then you’re gonna have to listen without getting defensive. Take it from me, listening to criticism is never fun, but it’s the only way we can improve.
A few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg decided he wanted to learn Chinese, and in order to practice he started trying to have work meetings with some of Facebook colleagues who are native speakers. Now you would think his very limited language skills would keep these conversations from being useful. One day he asked a woman who was there, how it was going, how did you choose the facebook. She answered with a long and pretty complicated sentence. So he said simpler please. She spoke again. Simpler please. This went back and forth a couple of times. So she is blurted out in frustration, my manager is bad. That he understood.
So often the truth is sacrificed to conflict avoidance, or by the time we speak the truth ,we’ve used so many caveats and preambles that the message totally gets lost. So I ask you to ask each other for the truth and other people: can you list it in simple and clear language? And when you speak your truth, can you use simple and clear language?
As hard as it is to be honest with orther people. It can be even more difficult to be honest with ourselves. For years after I had children, I would say pretty often I don’t feel guilty working even when no one asked. Someone might say, sherly, how’s your day today? And I would say, great I don’t feel guilty working. Or do I need a sweater? Yes ,it’s unpredictably freezing and I don’t feel guilty woring. I was kinda like a parrot with issues.
Then one day on the treadmill, I was reading this article on Sociology Journal about how people don’t start out lying to other people, they start out lying to themselves, and the things we repeat most frequently are often those lies.
So the sweat was pouring down my face. I started wondering what do I repeat pretty frequently, and I realized I feel guilty working. I then did a lot of research, and I spent an entire year with my dear friend Neil Scovell writing a book talking about how I was thinking and feeling, and I’m so grateful that so many women around the world connected to it. My book of course was called Fify Shades of Grey. I can see a lot of you connected to it as well.
We have even more work to do in being honest about the world we live in. We don’t always see the hard truths, and once we see them, we don’t always have the courage to speak out.
When my classmates and I were in college, we thought that fight for gender equally was one that was over. Sure, most of the leaders in every industry were men, but we thought changing that was just a matter of time. Lamont library right over there, one generation before us didn’t let women through its doors. But by the time we sat in your seat, everything was equal, Harvard and Radcliffe was fully integrated.
We didn’t need feminism because we were already equals. We were wrong. I was wrong. The word was not equal then and it is not equal now. I think nowadays, we don’t just hide ourselves from the hard truth and shut our eyes to the inequities, but we suffer from the tyranny of low expectations.
In the last election cycle in the united states, women won 20% of the senate seats, and all the headlines started screaming out: women take over the Senate. I felt like screaming back, wait a minute everyone.50% of the population getting 20% of the seats. That’s not a takeover. That’s an embarrassment.
Just a few months ago this year, a very well respected and well-know business executives in Silicon Valley invited me to give a speech to his club on social media. I’ve been to this club a few months before when I have been invited for a friend’s birthday. It was a beautiful building and I was wandering around looking at it, looking for the women's room, when a staff member informed me very firmly that the ladies' room was over there and I should be sure not to go up stairs because women are never allowed in this building. I didn't realize I was in an all-male club until that minute.
I spent the rest of the night wondering what I was doing there wondering what everyone else was doing there, wondering if any of my friends in San Francisco would invite me, a party at a club that didn't allow Blacks or Jews or Asians or gays. Being invited to give a business speech at this club, hit me even more egregious because you couldn't claim that it was only social business that was done there.
My first thought was, 'Really?' Really. A year after Lean In this dude thought it was a good idea to invite me to give a speech to his literal all-boys club. And he wasn't alone, there is an entire committee of well respected businessman who joined him in issuing this kind invitation.
To paraphrase Groucho Marx, and don't worry, I won't try to do the voice I don't want to speak in any club that won't have me as a member. So I said no,and I did it in a way I probably wouldn't have even 5 years before. I wrote a long and passionate email, arguing that they should change their policies. They thanked me for my prompt response and wrote that perhaps things will eventually change. Our expectations are too low. Eventually needs to become immediately.
We need to see the truth and speak the truth. We tolerate discrimination and we pretend that opportunity is equal. Yes we elected an African-American president, but racism is pervasive still.Yes, there are women who run Fortune 500 companies, 5 percent to be precise, but our road there is still paved with words like pussy and bossy, while our male peers are leaders and results focused.
African-American women have to prove that they're not angry. Latinos risk being branded fiery hot head.A group of Asian-American women and men in Facebook wore pins one day that said I may or may not be good enough.
Yes, Harvard has a woman president, and in two years, the United States may have a woman president.But in order to get there, Hillary Clinton is gonna have to overcome 2 very real obstacles, unknown and often ununderstood gender bias, and even worse, a degree from Yale.
You can challenge stereotypes that's subtle and obvious. At Facebook, we have posters around the wall to inspire us。Done is better than perfect, Fortune favors the bold. What would you do if you weren't afraid? My new favorite nothing at Facebook is someone else's problem. I hope you feel that way about the problems you see in the world, because they are not someone else's problem.
Gender inequality harms men along with women. Racism hurts Whites along with Minorities. And the lack of equal opportunity keeps all of us from failing our true potential.
So as you graduate today, I want to put some pressure on you. I want to put some pressure on you to acknowledge the hard truths, not shy away from them, and when you see them to address them.
The first time I spoke out about what it was like to be a woman in the workforce was less than five years ago. That means that for 18 years from where you sit to where I stand, my silence implied that everything was okay. You can do better than I did. And I mean that so sincerely.
At the same time, I want to take some pressure off you. Sitting here today you don't have to know what career you want or how to get the career you might want. Leaning in does not mean your path will be straight or smooth and most people who make great contribution start way later than Mark Zuckerberg. Find a jungle gym you want to play and start climbing, not only will you figure out what you want to do eventually, but once you do, you'll crush it.
Looking at you all here today, I'm filled with hope. All of you who were admitted to a 'small school' near Boston, either for your academic potential or your personality or both, you've had your first, whether it's a winter coat, a love or a C, you've learned more about who you are and who you want to be. And most importantly, you've experienced the power of community, you know that while you are extraordinary on your own, we are all stronger and can be louder together. I know that you will never forget Harvard, and Harvard will never forget you, especially during the next fundraising drive.
Tomorrow, you all become part of a lifelong community, which offers truly great opportunity, and therefore comes with real obligation. You can make the world fair for everyone, expect honesty from yourself and each other, demand and create truly equal opportunity, not eventually, but now. And tomorrow by the way, you get something Mark Zuckerberg does not have, a Harvard degree. Congratulations, everyone!