It’s a Man’s World

A reaction to Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In 

The inevitable truth: it’s a man’s world.

  • Of the 195 countries only 17 are led by women
  • Women hold only 20% of seats in parliament globally
  • Only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women
  • Women hold only 17% of exec officer positions, 17% of board seats, and 18% of our elected congressional offices

Despite the fact that women are graduating with more college degrees than men, the climb to the top has seen little improvement.  According to Catalyst studies, the number of women in executive offices has actually stagnated in recent years.  Nearly a century after women gained the right to vote and 40 years after Fortune 500’s first female CEO, we still have a lot of work to do.

Luckily, Sheryl Sandberg has taken on the campaign anew.  In her recent book, Lean In, the Facebook COO takes a new approach to the battle for gender equality.  Instead of just blaming the “old boys club” or high-level men for keeping women out of the C-suite, she points the finger inward as well– at women themselves.

Even before the book’s publication it was receiving heavy criticism.  Interestingly, much of the backlash came from the same women Sandberg was targeting and trying to empower.  Some working mothers responded to Sheryl Sandberg defensively, claiming that her assertions placed unrealistic expectations on the everyday woman.  They point to Sandberg’s privileged upbringing and education, and contend that her suggestions are only plausible for elite women. “It’s easy for her to say.”

So, why should we listen to a Harvard grad living in Silicon Valley with a net worth of $1 billion?

In an interview with 60 minutes, she answers, “It is easier for me to say this, and that is why I am saying it.”  With her influence, Sandberg is speaking for those who can’t and along the way she has validated the efforts of women nationwide, including those at Integrating Woman Leaders.

It’s true, not everyone can do what Sheryl Sandberg can do.  Not everyone can break through to the top of the “ladder.”  There is a lot we cannot control about being held back in leadership roles as women, but Sandberg tells women that there is also a lot we can control.  We can sit at more tables, raise more hands, and take more risks.

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Sheryl is the first person to admit that she doesn’t have all of the answers.  Her book is deeply personal and rooted in some her own self-doubt.  She uses herself to illustrate the fact that women undersell themselves, take themselves out of the conversation, downplay their successes, and feel guilty about the professional decisions they make.

This book tells women that we have the innate ability to become aware of the gender bias surrounding us, and take action in overcoming it.  It is a call to action for company’s to put the hard issues on the table and make gender issues an open discussion.

This book is just the beginning of the conversation.  I hope the men of corporate America don’t get too comfortable…because it won’t be a man’s world for too long.

Contributed by: Maggie Anderson, Director of Marketing