Lean In – Chapter 10

Chapter 10: Let’s Start Talking About It

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go through life - Sheryl SandbergSandberg addresses gender bias in the workplace in Chapter 10, similar to the topic covered in her TEDTalk. She stated that although gender is not openly acknowledged or talked about in our day-to-day lives, it is usually lurking below the surface. Sandberg encourages all of us, men and women, to talk about it. “We need to talk and listen and debate and refute and instruct and learn and evolve.” I appreciated the advice and issues raised in this chapter because I have witnessed differences between men and women in the workplace before and I am sure you have too (whether you have noticed it or not).

“Most people would agree that gender bias exists… in others. We, however, would never be swayed by such superficial and unenlightened opinions. Except we are. Our preconceived notions about masculinity and femininity influence how we interact with and evaluate colleagues in the workplace.” – Sheryl Sandberg

What are you doing to eliminate gender bias? Are you aware of it? Take a moment everyday to be cautious of how your preconceived notions influence how you evaluate your colleagues. Are women required to “fit in” to workplace norms built around masculinity? (Sandberg references a deep-sea fishing trip at one company). Are women given equal space at the table? Does this include the opportunity to speak up and credit for their ideas? Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express, acknowledges that men and women are more likely to interrupt a woman and give credit to a man for an idea first proposed by a woman. Are successful women at your workplace labeled as not well-liked by peers? Maybe that is because success and likeability are negatively correlated for women (as found in the Heidi/Howard case study). Sandberg suggests always asking yourself if the successful female is paying a gender-based penalty.

Opportunities and access for women have improved tremendously, but there is still progress to be made in all areas of society, including the workplace. That’s why Sandberg’s writing on this topic is an important addition to ongoing dialogue.
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This post is part of a series on Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

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