Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
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Image representing Sheryl Sandberg as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

What’s stopping more women from rising to the highest positions of power? This is the question that Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg addresses in her popular book, Lean In.

Sandberg asserts that women are unintentionally holding themselves back in the workplace. Her book has been met with disapproval from critics who argue that the COO is “elitist” or even blaming women instead of institutionalized sexism, as reported in the Huffington Post. 

Others have defended Sandberg as a staunch feminist and argue that her book is well worth reading. In the “60 Minutes” profile on Sunday, March10, Sandberg addressed her critics.
“My message is not one of blaming women. There is an awful lot we don’t control,” she said. “There is an awful lot we can control and we can do for ourselves to sit at more tables, raise more hands.”
Sandberg asserts that women are making gains, but not in politics and the business world.

I agree with her thesis. I believe the U.S. job force is experiencing the trickle-down effect. Traditionally, African-American men have broken the glass ceiling first, then Anglo women, followed by African-American women.
I don’t think women are holding themselves back; roadblocks include obligations to family and institutional sexism. The glass ceiling is a synonym for institutional barriers, sexism and family obligations. Many women work full-time, take care of families and homes, so they are too tired to put forth the extra effort that it takes to make it to the top.
Women must be accessible, vocal and visible if they want to be considered for leadership positions. Many times, women do the work of CEOs and COOs; however, they are not considered for top position because people assume they are not interested.
It is hard to formulate concrete answers for why the numbers of women in leadership roles have not increased significantly; however, explanations are imperative to make advances. I provide the possible explanations and solutions below:

One theory is people have become comfortable with the number of women in leadership positions and they don’t desire to see the numbers increase. Previous efforts to increase gender and racial diversity may be long forgotten.
Companies are in a coast mode, which is when we see numbers decrease or level off. People forget how far women have come, become comfortable and slip back into their old habits.
Women’s history month in March is a good time to reflect on women’s history and to set new goals.
Mentor Programs
The most important factor in attracting and keeping women in leadership positions is focusing on social support and mentoring. Women need better support systems in the workforce and homes if we are to see improvements.
Women and minorities often feel misplaced and alienated in situations where they are the only woman or person of color. Mentors can help them work through such issues.
Mentorship programs are valuable. Corporate America must extend programs to women and people of color inviting them to seek leadership positions.
Diversity Goals
Assess how close companies are to reaching diversity goals. Set measurable goals and objectives such as “a 2 percent increase in overall numbers of people of color in leadership positions.”
Consider hiring external diversity consultants to help navigate changes. Commitment from the organization does not necessarily transform employees overnight. There may be a backlash effect, particularly from senior members who don’t believe women are capable of holding leadership positions. 
To reach full diversity, the interests of women and corporate America must converge. Women must let others know their value.

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