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Sheryl Sandberg: These Are the Biggest Obstacles For Women Trying to ‘Lean In’

September 27, 2016, 4:47 PM UTC

Sheryl Sandberg believes that a growing number of women are heeding her call to “lean in.” The problem, according to the Facebook COO? The workplace keeps “pushing back.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Sandberg recaps some of the most notable findings of Women in the Workplace 2016, a new report from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. The sprawling report is based on a survey of 132 companies, which she calls, “to our knowledge, the most comprehensive annual review of women in corporate America.”

Among the most highlights—or perhaps lowlights?—of the report:

Representation: Women are underrepresented throughout the workplace pipeline, from entry-level all the way to the c-suite. The disparity grows as you move up the ladder, with women accounting for just 18% of c-level employees. The picture is even grimmer when you focus on women of color, who hold a mere 3% of c-suite jobs.

The researchers note that the growing gender gap cannot be blamed on women quitting; they found that, on average, men and women are leaving their companies at similar rates.

Leadership roles: The lagging stats on women in leadership start at the very first major promotion: the move to manager. According to the report, for every 100 women who are promoted to that title, 130 men receive the same bump.

Making it to the top: Women are far less likely to get to CEO, in part because they are less likely to hold “line” positions, the jobs that are considered feeders to the role of chief. At the SVP level, women hold 20% of those positions.

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The office experience: The female employees in the study were less likely than their male counterparts to say that they’d recently gotten a challenging assignment (62% to 68%), to report that their contributions are properly valued (49% vs. 54%), or to say that they are turned to for input on important decisions (56% vs 63%).

“Too aggressive”: Defying the stereotype that women don’t ask for what they want at work, female respondents were more likely to report that they pushed for an interesting assignment or asked for a raise. However, this assertiveness does not go unpunished. Thirty percent of women said they’d received feedback that they were “bossy” or “aggressive” vs. 23% of men.

Sandberg closes her piece by suggesting some steps companies can take to help improve gender equality in corporate America. She urges employers to not only track their gender breakdown in hiring and promotions, but to set clear targets for where they’d like those numbers to be. The COO also reminds companies to make the case for why gender diversity can help their business and benefit everyone in the organization.

“These things matter,” writes Sandberg. “Not just for women, but for us all.”