By Sheryl Sandberg
As published in The Wall Street Journal
The reason for this pushback lies in many of the unconscious assumptions we all hold about women and men. We expect men to be assertive, look out for themselves, and lobby for more—so there’s little downside when they do it. But women must be communal and collaborative, nurturing and giving, focused on the team and not themselves, lest they be viewed as self-absorbed. So when a woman advocates for herself, people often see her unfavorably.
Both male and female managers say it’s hard to give tough feedback to women. Perhaps they should learn from legendary coach Geno Auriemma, who in 30 years of leading UConn’s women’s basketball team has won a record 11 national titles. He speaks to WSJ’s Shelby Holliday about how good leaders can find success by dishing tough-love feedback.
The problem isn’t just in the asking. Women face an uphill battle right from the start. They have less access to senior-level sponsors and get less feedback on their performance, despite asking for it as frequently as men. Women in our survey are more likely to say that they don’t receive challenging assignments and that they struggle with being recognized for their ideas and contributions. So not surprisingly, women are almost three times as likely as men to think their gender will make it harder to get a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead.
These things matter—not just for women, but for us all. Research shows that gender equality is as good for business as it is for individuals. Diverse teams and companies produce better results and higher revenue and profits, which lead to more opportunity for everyone, not just women.
We believe that leaders want to do what’s right—and it’s heartening to see so many companies choosing to participate in this study. Seventy-eight percent of them report that gender diversity is a top-10 priority for their CEO. But while companies are highly committed to solving the problem, they are struggling to put their commitment into practice. Only half of managers say they know what to do to improve gender diversity, and only a quarter of employees report that their managers frequently challenge biased language or behavior when it happens. Although 93% of companies report they use clear criteria for hiring and promotions, only 57% of employees say this is true in practice.
This report is a reminder, yet again, of how much is left to do.
There are steps that companies can take right now, starting with measuring progress. Although most companies track the gender breakdown of their hiring and promotions, fewer than 35% set targets—and it’s harder to make progress when you don’t have clear goals in place.
Companies also need to make a stronger case for gender diversity, explaining why it matters and how it benefits everyone. They can invest in gender-bias training—especially for managers, who make many of the decisions that affect women’s daily work experience and career progression. Companies can also encourage everyone, from entry-level employees to leaders, to talk openly about gender stereotypes and provide women with more leadership opportunities, access to sponsors, and recognition for their contributions.
And all of us can encourage women to keep negotiating—until the day that it’s seen as perfectly normal, and even expected, for women to ask for more.
More women are leaning in—and we’ll all go farther when the workplace stops pushing back.
Ms. Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook Inc. and the founder of LeanIn.Org. Rachel Thomas, president of Lean In, contributed to this essay.