Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of the 2013 bestseller “Lean In,” has become the face of and an activist for female empowerment.
And as part of today’s launch of the Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org, Sandberg wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about how to achieve gender equality. In it, she argues that the first step to achieving parity is realizing how much work remains to be done.
The report finds that while workplace equality seems to be slowing or even stalling, nearly 50% of men and one-third of women don’t find the fact that only 10% of senior executives are women at all troubling—in fact, they think it’s sufficient.
Equally vexing is the persistence of this inequality despite companies’ growing commitment to gender diversity. Sandberg has a theory on why this is the case: “Blind spots are getting in our way,” she wrote in the op-ed. She adds that “it’s hard to solve a problem we don’t fully see or understand—and when it comes to gender in the workplace, too often we miss the scope and scale of the issue.”
Yet the picture isn’t entirely bleak. Sandberg outlines three steps companies can take to get on the track for equality.
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First, companies should make a “compelling case for gender diversity,” linking it to business results. Second, they should ensure managers are committed to gender diversity, which will, in turn, encourage their teams to follow their lead. And finally, Sandberg argues companies must “resist a one-size-fits-all approach.”
She notes that women of color face a double bias, which “leads to a complex set of constraints and barriers.” Companies that fail to see this “miss the chance to level the playing field.”
Sandberg concludes that businesses can’t “afford to leave talent on the sidelines,” but that we “won’t unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are.”