Women Leaders, Relying on Their Peers’ Power and Their Own


nationalgeographic.com - This story appears in the January 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. For 3 Questions this month, we interviewed two leaders who have blazed trails on matters of gender. Writer and activist Gloria Steinem, 82, has been one of the world’s leading feminists since the 1960s. In her memoir, My Life on the Road, the Ms. magazine co-founder describes a life of nearly constant travel, from her itinerant childhood to her ongoing global advocacy. Sheryl Sandberg, 47, is a champion for women’s leadership and the author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. After years of government service, she leaned in to the tech boom, first with Google and now as chief operating officer for Facebook.

Steinem and Sandberg answered our questions in separate interviews, which have been edited for length and clarity.

What was a defining moment in your life, related to gender?

Gloria Steinem: It’s difficult to think of a defining moment because gender, in my generation, was just so assumed. I never remember wanting to be a boy, except perhaps to put my feet over the movie seat in front of me in the theater. And I never remember feeling limited as a girl, because I was not going to school very much. It came as a shock and surprise when I got to be a teenager and gender became very limiting and very important. There were always whispers and rumors about girls who got pregnant and had to get married. If someone was raped, it was her fault. In my teenage years I became aware of being careful.