How Women Can Fix The Gender Gap

closing the gender gap Although the gender gap is more glaringly apparent in some industries and areas than others, the sad fact remains that, even in today’s day and age, women and men are far from equal, especially when it comes to factors like employment and pay. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, attributes this continued divide to several factors—including women who don’t aggressively pursue opportunities.

Sandberg explores this theory in her new book, Lean In, due out in March. In ways both big and small, Sandberg examines how women hold themselves back so that we can collectively recognize these factors—and change them.

“We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives, the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men,” she writes. “We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve. We continue to do the majority of the housework and childcare. We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet.”

Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times recently met with Sandberg during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and shared his own experience with these sorts of self-defeating behaviors.

“I think that there is something real and important in what she says,” he writes. “When I lecture at universities, the first questions are invariably asked by a man—even at a women’s college. When I point at someone in a crowd to ask a question, the women in the area almost always look at each other hesitantly—and any man in the vicinity jumps up and asks his question.”

These are the sorts of behaviors we can change—and teach the other women in our lives to change, too. After all, aren’t we worthy of voicing our opinions? Of asking questions? Of being paid the same as our male counterparts and given the same professional opportunities? Absolutely! And if we can help influence change in ourselves and in the women around us, we just might be able to take what Nicholas recommends as a next step.

“So, yes, let’s encourage young women to ‘lean in,’ but let’s also change the workplace so that when they do lean in and assert themselves, we’re directly behind them shouting: ‘Right!’

We’re on board! And you can bet we’ll be first in line to read Sheryl’s book in March. We’re eager to learn more from her own experiences of juggling a demanding career and a family, something our own Brenda Chapman knows all too well.

What do you think it will take to erase the gender gap? Do you think Sheryl’s suggestions are a good starting point?

Image: mikecogh via Compfight cc

  • I agree completely that we need to change behaviors. However, we must start with ourselves first. Years ago, early in my career, I learned something very quickly. When women were successful and got promotions, the first ones to complain and gossip were other women. I admit I was one. I heard myself one day, and I wasn’t being kind about a recent promotion that a colleague had gotten. It was an awakening for me. I realized how petty and jealous I sounded. I realized that I was conforming to the stereotype that women can’t work together. I didn’t like what I heard or what I saw…about me. From that point forward, I fought the urge to make negative comments about women when they were promoted. Rather than make negative comments I looked for the good things that she contributed to get the promotion.

    It wasn’t long before finding the good was the first thing that came to mind. However, I was often alone in making the positive assertions.

    We need to teach young women that it is ok to speak out like you say above. We teach young women that if we don’t support ourselves and our fellow female colleagues, then we will continue to have these conversations and continue to wonder why we lag behind. Of course there are other issues at hand; but the fact remains, that we need to change both our internal conversations as well as those that we share in the workplace. Standing up for gender equality starts with us and our own person.

    • brendachapman

      Absolutely! A really great observation. Thank you.

  • hmm interesting. I never thought of it that way 🙂

    • brendachapman

      I know… it is interesting.

  • Go girls Go!!! I even found some helpful bits in this article. Thanks for sharing.

    • brendachapman

      Great!

  • The part about men, being the first to participate- I wonder if it is indeed because of some taught inferiority or if it is in fact ( as is my experience) because women are more analytic, carefully planning what they say and do, something which men are oft not to do and rather jump carelessly into the void.

    We should not teach women to be more like men, that would be and has been disastrous, such as in the instances when, successful women, adopt the male behavior.

    we should try to find a way for women to be women and succeed in spite of men.

    The problem lies that our current times, leave little time for thought, we are obliged to keep up with the fast pace of computers. Women however have one over men, they have each other, and the moment that women begin to help each other out for no other reason that to help, then women will be in fact a supercomputer, being a fact that they are already smarter than men.

    Of course the greatest obstacle in the path of success for women is the male ego, something which is irrational and violent. Learn to control it and success will likely be assured.

    Regards
    Chuck

    • brendachapman

      You know, Chuck, I tend to agree with you. Thank you for your insight.

  • Aspiring Auteur

    As a career oriented woman who has been trying to “break in” to the film industry for the last 21 years, I find the “women who don’t aggressively pursue opportunities” comment slightly offensive. I have known what I wanted to do since I was 7 years old and aggressively pursuing that dream almost my entire life! My own life plan has never included having children to slow me down either. I believe Sandberg has some great points and observations, however, I just wish she hadn’t put the burden solely on women’s shoulders because the reality is men & women need to collaborate together in order to solve this gender gap issue.

    • brendachapman

      I understand. She made it by “leaning in”, but some of us have been burned trying to lean in, myself included. I do think most of what she has to say is good for us all to think about. But I agree, it’s not always in our power to change the outcome – it lies within the power of those over us. I don’t think there is an easy answer to all of this.

  • Benjamin

    I’m sorry, I simply can’t agree with what is said in this article.

    I don’t mean to get on a rant, but I simply disagree with the concepts presented.

    It is acknowledged that the reason for the gap in pay is because many women are in personal childcare. But often find it claimed as their “fault.” Now that I find quite disturbing.

    Many times I will hear feminists say they find childcare to be a fine option, if a women wants to do it. Then it is almost always followed by a statement about how those women are “holding women back.” NONSENSE! They are performing what is perhaps one of the most important roles in all of society; Raising children! Why is it that having children is seen as “settling for something lower”?

    Many men have ruined their lives by reducing their views and concerns to just their careers. And how do many feminists react? Not by saying that those men are being silly, not by saying that women have a more important role than that, but by claiming that women ought to do the same.

    Once again, I don’t mean to get all angry about this, I’m sure you don’t intend on insulting the work of childcare. But I think people should be careful not to talk down the work of childcare as anything less than incredibly important.

    Also, I think IF a woman desires to raise children, she SHOULD plan for it. It is an important aspect of life, and like other important aspects it should be planned if it can be.

    • Benjamin

      Of course, I do not think that women should be held out of jobs because they are women.
      BUT, I also don’t think they should fear childcare because other women tell them it is bad.

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