Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Advocates for More Women in Leadership Positions

AUSTIN, TX – NOVEMBER 02: Sheryl Sandberg speaks at the Texas Conference For Women 2017 at Austin Convention Center on November 2, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Texas Conference for Women)

By LAURA LOREK
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

The same leadership traits in men like decisiveness and ambition are often criticized in women, said Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Take those same traits and apply them to women of color and the discrimination is even worse, Sandberg said.

“Women of color have all the gender biases and all the race biases,” she said. “And so, in order for us to get our share of the leadership roles, women overall, and especially for women of color, we’re going to have to fight all of those biases and we’re going to have to fight them every day in every way we can.”

In addition to discussing grief and gratitude and her book, Option B, Sandberg spoke at the Texas Conference for Women about gender discrimination and she talked about the labels women face in the workplace and how that leads to discrimination.

Sandberg asked the women attending the conference, how many of them had been called bossy as a little girl or if they have been called too aggressive at work. All kinds of hands shot up in the air.

Corporations need to strike the word aggressive from the performance reviews of women, Sandberg said. Too many women get unfairly labeled in the workplace and then they get overlooked for promotions and advancement because of gender bias and labels, she said.

On Thursday when Sandberg spoke, she pointed out that it was Latina Equal Pay Day.

“That means that Latinas had to work all of 2016 and this far into 2017 to catch up with what white men earned in 2016 alone,” Sandberg said.

That pay gap exists for all women, but it’s the worst for Latinas, Sandberg said.

“So as we think about getting to equality and getting to a better world, it is an important day to acknowledge how costly and expensive, especially for all the single moms out there, how costly these wage gaps are.”

“And I believe one of the best ways we can fix a lot of these problems is more women, more women in power,” Sandberg said.

“And for anyone that is a skeptic, I say let’s try it,” Sandberg said. “We’ve tried it the other way for a really long time and I’m not sure it’s going that well.”

LeanIn.org, the organization founded from Sandberg’s book: Lean In, recently released its Women in the Workplace 2017 report on the state of women in corporate America. It features 222 companies employing more than 12 million people sharing their pipeline data.

The conclusion is that women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, Sandberg said. Although awareness is increasing, progress is slow, she said.

“Many employees think women are well represented in leadership when they see only a few,” according to the report. “And because they’ve gotten comfortable with the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change. Further, many men don’t fully grasp the state of women in the workplace, and some worry that gender diversity efforts disadvantage them. As a result, men are less committed to the issue, and we can’t get to equality without them.”

Women of color face the greatest obstacles to get to leadership positions.

Adam Grant asked Sandberg “How do we get more women in power?”

“We have to acknowledge what the biases are,” Sandberg said.

Men get promoted on potential, but women have to prove it, Sandberg said. In areas of performance in the workplace, men are judged higher than women and that hurts the ability for women to get promoted and advance to leadership positions, she said.

Sandberg also acknowledged Anita Hill, who had spoken earlier in the day at the conference. Hill’s testimony during the 1991 confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas sparked a national conversation about sexual harassment.

During her talk, Hill, now a civil rights leader and professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University, said the nation is ready to end sexual harassment.

“I am ready to believe that we outnumber the deniers, the enablers, and the abusers,” Hill said.

The outrage that is happening with Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood director, being accused by multiple women of alleged sexual harassment is appropriate, Sandberg said. That incident has opened the floodgate of accusations of sexual assault and harassment against other major Hollywood players. And it has prompted other women to come forward and complain about other men in positions of power in the media and other industries.

Hill started the movement, Sandberg said. She made it ok for women to come forward and complain about their treatment in the workplace, Sandberg said. The audience gave Hill a standing ovation.

To address gender inequality, what needs to happen in policy on a national level, Grant asked Sandberg.

“We need 21st-century policies for a 21st-century workforce,” Sandberg said.

Companies need to provide paid paternity and maternity leave, medical leave, sick leave, and companies need to pay a $15 living wage, Sandberg said. Facebook also gives its employees 20 days of bereavement leave for immediate family members, she said.

“We invest in our employees, they invest in us,” she said.

In closing, Grant asked Sandberg about how to create a movement and build a community around Option B and Sandberg’s previous book, Lean In.
When Sandberg wrote Lean In five years ago, she had an idea to create support circles or Lean In Circles for women. There are several groups in Texas including one with 100 members, she said.

The goal was to create 1,000 circles, but today there are more than 34,000 circles in more than 150 countries, Sandberg said. She met with the two Austin-based Lean In Circles on Thursday morning, she said.

“We don’t get through the hard things in life alone,” Sandberg said. “And we cannot achieve our dreams alone.”

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