Advice from a male CEO: “We all need to Lean In”

March 15, 2013, 7:07 PM UTC

In the crazy media buildup to Monday’s release of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, author/Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg was surprised that men didn’t chime into the public discourse. That changed in the past few days. PIMCO CEO Mohamed el-Erian wrote a wise commentary on Sandberg’s crusade. I interviewed Sandberg about her message to men. Next week, I’ll share with you my interview with Sandberg and American Express CEO Ken Chenault.

Meantime, this Guest Post by Silicon Valley CEO Dan Rosensweig is about how Lean In applies to male leaders. A former president of Yahoo who now heads Chegg, played an interesting role in Sandberg’s high-flying career: He hosted a 2007 holiday party where she met Mark Zuckerberg. It was there that Facebook’s founder and CEO, um, leaned in to Sandberg about leaving her big job at Google . Four months later, she went to Facebook.

We all need to Lean In
by Dan Rosensweig, CEO, Chegg

I’ve been listening to the debate over Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. And frankly, as a father of two young women, a husband of almost 25 years, a son of a single mother and the CEO of Chegg, a company focused on serving high school and college students, I feel compelled to Lean In myself and add my voice.

If you think the shortage of women leaders is a problem for a previous generation or for the undereducated or simply not for you, you’re wrong.

Fifty-five percent of college graduates today are women. This graduation rate, while impressive, is diminished by the fact that these same women are paid less than men for the exact same job, starting the moment they sign their first offer letter.

When my company surveyed recent male and female graduates across all majors at two-year, four-year public and private and for-profit universities about their self-reported salaries, the results were not good: Men earn, on average, 29% more than women.

The finding is reinforced by the American Association of University Women’s 2012 survey, which showed Millennial women are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers. And on average, men earn nearly $8,000 more than women do one year after graduating.

We should all feel compelled to ask: Is it fair? Is it right? Is it smart? It’s against our own self interest and it hurts America.

Women drive a huge percentage of America’s economic health. How can it be in anyone’s best interest to perpetuate unequal pay, especially when it is within our control?

After I read Lean In, I reviewed Chegg’s policies and was relieved to discover that we pay equal pay for equal jobs. That was a relief, as is this fact: In fields that have the greatest need for recent graduates such as STEM majors, woman are often paid equal to their male peers. Competition for tech talent makes equal pay a business imperative.

In other words, when forced due to supply and demand, we do Lean In.

But you never know. And that’s why you have to keep checking.

Could your company withstand the social-media test about your policies and pay scales? What would your employees say? If you find your company is not aligned for the future, fix it.

Hiring and retaining the best employees requires equal pay based on merit, not gender. Thank you, Sheryl, for getting us all to Lean In.