WSJ: Sheryl Sandberg: Progress for Women Isn’t Just Slow—It’s Stalled

The Facebook chief operating officer and founder of LeanIn.Org says the first step to closing the gender gap is ensuring that hiring and promotions are fair from the start

Facebook Chief Operating Officer and LeanIn.Org founder Sheryl Sandberg talks about the consequences of male backlash to the #MeToo movement, and what we can do about it.

There is a disconnect in corporate America. Year after year, companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity. But the proportion of women in their organizations barely budges. For this to change, companies need to treat gender diversity like the business imperative it is.

This is a key finding of the Women in the Workplace 2018 report, the result of a joint, multiyear survey by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. that we release today. It’s the largest study of its kind, with four years of data from 462 companies employing nearly 20 million people.

This year’s report shows that women continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level. For women of color, it’s even worse. Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and just one in twenty-five is a woman of color. Progress isn’t just slow—it’s stalled.

Women are doing their part. They’ve been earning more bachelor’s degrees than men for over 30 years. They’re asking for promotions and negotiating salaries as often as men. And contrary to conventional wisdom, women are not leaving the workforce at noticeably higher rates to care for children—or for any other reason.

Now companies must do their part, too. That starts with making the business case for diversity, which research shows leads to better performance and more innovation. Then companies need to explain to employees why making a personal commitment to hire, promote, mentor and support women is good not just for business, but for their own careers. Whether CEO or entry-level employee, the person who can work better with half the population will get better results.

Once companies make the case, they need to follow through by reporting on progress and holding managers and leaders accountable for results. Most companies aren’t taking these basic yet critical steps to correct their gender gaps.

Rachel Thomas

To make progress quickly, companies should focus on the two biggest levers: hiring and promotions. As it stands now, women are disadvantaged from the beginning. It’s like they’re running a race and men are given a huge head start. At the entry level, when one might expect an equal number of men and women to be hired, men get 54% of jobs, while women get 46%. At the next step, the gap widens. Women are less likely to be hired and promoted into manager-level jobs; for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 79 women are. As a result, men end up holding 62% of manager positions, while women hold only 38%.

The fact that men are far more likely than women to get that first promotion to manager is a red flag. It’s highly doubtful that there are significant enough differences in the qualifications of entry-level men and women to explain this degree of disparity. More probably, it’s because of performance bias. Research shows that both men and women overestimate men’s performance and underestimate women’s. This may be particularly acute for women at the start of their careers, when their track records are shortest—and for women of color, who are up against both gender and racial bias.

Where Are Women on the Corporate Ladder?

A study of 279 companies by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. tracks women at every level of the corporate chain of command and finds that, despite companies’ efforts to advance women, progress has largely stalled.

By the manager level, women are too far behind to ever catch up. There are significantly fewer women at that level to promote from within and significantly fewer women with the right experience to hire from the outside. Even if companies want to hire more women into senior leadership—and many do—there are simply far fewer of them with the necessary qualifications. The entire race has become rigged because of those unfair advantages at the start.

Companies need to take bold steps to make the race fair. This begins with establishing clear, consistent criteria for hiring and reviews, because when they are based on subjective impressions or preferences, bias creeps in. Companies should train employees so they understand how unconscious bias can affect who’s hired and promoted—and who’s not. And they should track outcomes to make sure candidates are being treated fairly.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg (above) and Lean In President Rachel Thomas say it’s a red flag—and a sign of performance bias—that men are far more likely than women to get that first promotion to manager. PHOTO: LEAN IN

If companies continue to hire and promote women to manager at current rates, the number of women in management will increase by a mere 1 percentage point over the next 10 years. But if companies start hiring and promoting women and men to manager at equal rates, we can nearly close the gender gap in management over the same 10 years. That’s a huge opportunity.

In the past, when companies voiced strong commitment to gender diversity, we celebrated. Now we are impatient. The future of women in the workplace hangs in the balance, and good intentions aren’t good enough anymore. Women are leaning in. Companies need to lean in, too.

Ms. Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook Inc. and the founder of LeanIn.Org. Ms. Thomas is the president of Lean In.

Appeared in the October 23, 2018, print edition as ‘Women Are Leaning In. Now Companies Need To Lean In, Too..’
Photo Sources: President Rachel Thomas PHOTO: DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS; Sheryl Sandberg PHOTO: LEAN IN


HBR: How Men Can Become Better Allies to Women

Photo: HIROKAZU JIKE/Getty Images

Women’s conferences and employee resource groups (ERGs) are increasingly inviting men to attend. By creating events aimed at men, they hope to include men in discussions around gender equity in the workplace, and make organizational diversity efforts more successful.

The evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress — compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged. But today, too many organizations still miss the mark on gender equity efforts by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women — from the way they network to the way the lead. Individualistic approaches to solving gender inequities overlook systemic structural causes and reinforce the perception that these are women’s issues — effectively telling men they don’t need to be involved. Without the avid support of men, often the most powerful stakeholders in most large corporations, significant progress toward ending gender disparities is unlikely. What’s at stake? A study by McKinsey projects that in a “full potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, $28 trillion dollars (26%) would be added to the annual global GDP when compared to the current business-as-usual scenario.

But including men in diversity efforts is not as simple as inviting them to a gender-equity event. These efforts often reveal reluctance, if not palpable anxiety among targeted men. Sexism is a system, and while it’s a system that privileges men, it also polices male behavior. Understanding that is important to changing the system.

Challenges Facing Male Allies

We define male allies as members of an advantaged group committed to building relationships with women, expressing as little sexism in their own behavior as possible, understanding the social privilege conferred by their gender, and demonstrating active efforts to address gender inequities at work and in society. Debra Meyerson and Megan Tompkins refer to such men as tempered radicals — they are catalysts for change, challenging organizational structures that disadvantage women while remaining committed to the success of the organization.

While some research has shown that white men face no penalty for promoting diversity, other studies suggest that there can be a cost to acting as an ally.

First, there’s the dreaded wimp penalty. New research reveals that men perceived as less self-promoting and more collaborative and power-sharing are evaluated by both men and women as less competent (and, not incidentally, less masculine). Egalitarian men can feel the backlash effects of stigma-by-association — perceived as being similar to women by advocating for them. This is more likely in organizations where people endorse a zero-sum perspective on gender equality. Backlash against male allies is a real possibility.

Self-professed male allies can also face criticism from the women they try to ally with. As two men who write and speak about cross-gender allyship and mentorship, we’ve noticed occasional backlash from women when dudes show up at women’s events. At one recent conference for women in technology, a Bingo card was circulated by women in the audience just before a panel composed of men on the topic of male allyship. The — seemingly cynical — objective? To identify as many worn-out clichés and defensive phrases men often utter in these contexts as possible. Some eye-rolling favorites included: “I’m a feminist; We’re all in this together; My mother taught me to respect women; and, I saw the light after the birth of my daughter!”

Understandably, many women are initially skeptical about efforts to include men in women’s conferences and ERGs. First, these gatherings have historically offered women a sense of community and camaraderie, a safe space for sharing experiences and formulating strategies for achieving equality in the workplace. This relational community is inestimably important and men need to respect it. Second, sub-tracks and breakout sessions for men at women’s events are often given labels such as Manbassador or Male Champion, terrific for drawing men in, but in truth, rather grandiose to the ears of women who may sigh and ask, “Really dude? We have to call you a champion just to get you to be fair, respectful, and inclusive?”

This Pedestal Effect in which men are given special treatment and shout outs for even small acts of gender equality is understandably grating for women who for years have done the emotional labor and carried the load for equality with nary a man in sight. And there is always the risk that over-focusing on men in women’s events may ultimately strengthen rather than dismantle the gender hierarchy status quo.

Third, there is the problem of the Fake Male Feminist. You know this guy. He slings on feminism like a superhero cape when his boss is watching, to impress — or worse, seduce — women, or to avoid being labeled as sexist despite his pattern of sexist behavior. Finally, there is the sincere but utterly naïve, ill-informed, or low-EQ man who’s notion of allyship amounts to rescuing, mansplaining, or even attempting to become the spokesman for women in the organization. As Martin Luther King once reflected, shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. When aspiring male allies fail to understand the critical importance of partnering and collaborating with humility, there is a real risk that they may ultimately undermine women’s initiatives by attempting to dominate them.

The Allies Male Allies Need

Women who want to dismantle sexist systems will be well-served by appreciating the wide variation among male allies and the factors most likely to help them get better at collaborating with women to shrink gender disparities. Diversity consultant Jennifer Brown recognizes that not all male allies are equally evolved. She frames allyship on a continuum, ranging from apathetic (clueless and disinterested regarding gender issues) to aware (has some grasp of the issues but not at all active or engaged in addressing them) to active (well-informed and willing to engage in gender equity efforts, but only when asked) to advocate (routinely and proactively champions gender inclusion). Although we might not waste our time recruiting apathetic men to gender-inclusion events, we’re delighted to get in a room with the other three varieties, taking a shot at spurring their internal motivation and sharpening their ally skillset. We just want them in the fight! The evidence is in. The more positive interaction men have with women in professional settings, the less prejudice and exclusion they tend to demonstrate.

Organizers of women’s initiatives who wish to engage male allies should also consider recent research on psychological standing (a perception of legitimacy as an ally to women). Evidence reveals that gender-parity efforts are most effective when men believe they have a dignified and important role to play, that transformation in the workplace is something they can share in. The motivation for this role is often tied to personal examples and a sense of fairness and justice. Moreover, when allies feel accepted by the disadvantaged group they endeavor to support, their internal motivation to participate is bolstered. If men feel like unicorns, met by raised eyebrows when they muster the wherewithal to attend a manbassador track in a women’s conference, gender alliance efforts falter.

How Men Can Be Better Allies

Here are some with tangible recommendations for men who are invited to participate in women’s conferences or other initiatives as allies for gender equality in the workplace. These are best practices for men who want to be better collaborators with women.

  • First, just listen! Consultant Chuck Shelton reminds men that listening to women’s voices in a way that inspires trust and respect is a fundamental relationship promise you must make, and then keep, with women who invite you to participate around equity. Generous, world-class listening requires focus, sincerity, empathy, refusal to interrupt, and genuine valuing of both her experience and her willingness to share it with you.
  • Respect the space. Women’s conferences and ERGs are often one outgrowth of experiences of exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination. Many of these experiences are painful. Large events and local resource groups have afforded women a powerful platform for sharing experiences, providing support, and strategizing equity initiatives. Tread respectfully into these spaces and before you utter a word, revisit the recommendation above.
  • Remember, it’s not about you. Ask women how you can amplify, not replace or usurp existing gender parity efforts. A large dose of gender humility will help here. Decades of research on prosocial (helpful) behavior reveals a stark gender difference in how it is expressed. While women often express helpfulness communally and relationally, men show helpful intentions through action-oriented behaviors. Sometimes, we need to rein this in. Refrain from taking center stage, speaking for women, or mansplaining how women should approach gender equity efforts.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Developing psychological standing requires a commitment to learning and advocating for gender equity. Learning about the professional challenges of women may produce feelings of self-shame or self-blame that cause anxiety. The solution is more interaction and learning, not less.
  • Engage in supportive partnerships with women. The best cross-gender ally relationships are reciprocal, and mutually growth-enhancing. Share your social capital (influence, information, knowledge, and organizational resources) with women’s groups but ask them — don’t assume — how you can best support their efforts.
  • Remember the two parts to allyship. Keep in mind that committing to express as little sexism as possible in your interactions with women is the easy part of allyship. The hard part requires you to take informed action. Use your experience in women’s events and initiatives to learn how you can best become a public ally for social justice around gender. When the time comes, this may require you to upset the status quo.

W. Brad Johnson, PhD, is a professor of psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy, and a Faculty Associate at Johns Hopkins University. He is the co-author of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women as well as other books about mentoring.

David G. Smith, PhD, is a professor of sociology in the Department of National Security Affairs at the United States Naval War College. He is the co-author of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women. His research focuses on gender, work, and family issues including dual career families, military families, women in the military, and retention of women.


USA Today: 3 Effective Ways to Promote Gender Equality in Biopharma and Life Sciences

Gender diversity is a recognized driver of business success. Yet, senior female executives still represent just 17 percent of top 20 pharmaceutical company management teams. So how can biopharma and life science companies move the needle to achieve gender parity and the enhanced corporate performance that comes with it?

1. Make diversity and inclusion essential to global strategy

Success starts with building a culture of inclusion in which all employees can realize their full potential. By building a foundation that values diversity, companies can create an organizational environment grounded in trust that creates the culture to support talent to flourish. This requires encouraging participation from everyone, critically the CEO, to demonstrate their support and importance of addressing unconscious bias. It requires creating a core competency around gender partnership — and how this plays out around the world. And it requires making gender parity the highest priority in selection, retention, training and promotion; including holding senior leaders accountable for considering a gender-balanced slate for open positions and ongoing mentoring and sponsorship programs.

As efforts progress, it’s also critical to continually measure, learn, apply and share widely what works — and what doesn’t — and transparently sharing updates about this important work.

2. Maximize the role of employee resource groups

Employee resource groups, also known as affinity or business resource groups, can play a huge role in building an inclusive culture that attracts, engages and retains top talent and promotes the cross-pollination of ideas needed to solve today’s biggest healthcare challenges. These groups offer those underrepresented at senior levels an environment to build confidence and skills and a forum for networking, mentorship and collaborative learning. Smart companies leverage ERGs strategically to gain perspectives and connections for customer insights, marketing and sales and identify where talent resides in the organization.

3. Build external partnerships to multiply impact

Moving the needle on gender parity also requires external efforts to publicly advocate for parity as a business — not a women’s — issue. Companies can make a greater impact and set themselves apart from the competition by building strong partnerships. For example, companies can partner with non-governmental organizations like the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Gender Parity Collaborative, focused on diversity to offer events, programming, professional development, and thought leadership.

By following these and other best practices, biopharma companies can make great strides toward retaining senior women leaders, attracting the brightest talent and better serving both patients and the company’s bottom line.


Gold: The State of Gender Parity in Biopharma

Words by Laurie P Cooke, President and CEO, of the HBA, talks to us about the state of gender parity in biopharma


In 2017, the biopharmaceutical industry reached a gender parity milestone when GlaxoSmithKline’s Emma Walmsley became the first female CEO to head a major pharmaceutical company. Yet, senior female executives still represent just 17% of management teams in the top 20 pharma companies (as ranked by sales). At the current pace of change, the World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap Report 2017, estimates that it will take 100 years to achieve global gender parity in the workplace. Unfortunately, this is even longer than the 83 years estimated in the 2016 report.

Many biopharma business leaders, including the partners of the HBA’s Gender Parity Collaborative, have recognised that we must do more to dramatically speed up the pace of progress. Achieving gender parity will not only ensure that women can realise their full potential as leaders but it will also allow organisations to leverage the benefits of diversity and inclusion (D&I). This will enable women to realise their full potential in overcoming today’s biggest healthcare challenges while meeting the industry’s biggest opportunities.
Gender parity is not a female issue; it’s a business opportunity. Evidence shows that companies perform better when they have greater diversity in leadership positions. In fact, McKinsey & Company’s 2018 study, Delivering through Diversity, has reinforced their previous findings that gender diversity on executive teams correlates with both short-term profitability and long-term value creation.
Successfully integrating D&I starts with a commitment at the very top. This means tying diversity goals to senior executives’ compensation. It means creating diversity councils, led by senior executives, in order to develop incentives that encourage a rich and diverse talent pipeline and create opportunities for all employees to have a voice. Also, it means ensuring the organisation’s CEO is both personally connected to and actively engaged in D&I initiatives.
From here, D&I must be woven into the fabric of the organisation at every level. This will create a foundation of D&I principles that can be rigorously integrated into people, philosophies, policies, practices, and procedures that build trust. The progress of principle integration should then be measured and reported on to gauge its impact.
An inclusive culture generates new ways of thinking and promotes cross-pollination of ideas. To harness this innovation, companies can bring cross-sections of employees together through internal think tanks. Then, task these employees with tackling specific business opportunities and provide them with insights to inform recruitment and retention, customer outreach, strategy, and more.
Considering 80% of healthcare decisions are executed by women, critical perspectives and ideas for optimal engagement are ever-present. Therefore, biopharma companies stand to gain much from the insights of their female leaders and employees.
With a firm foundation of measurable principles, consistent support, engagement from the top, and avenues for leveraging innovative thinking, biopharma companies can make D&I a widely accepted norm that benefits both their employees and their business.
Visit to learn more about the state of gender parity and how you can get involved in speeding the pace of progress.