Sheryl Sandberg Is Giving Misogynistic, Male-Dominated Companies Too Easy Of An Excuse


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Sheryl Sandberg set off a firestorm this week as she hit the press to publicize her new book “Lean In.”She’s tackling the sensitive subject of women in the workplace.

Business Insider covered her appearance on “60 Minutes” last night.

Sandberg is doing two things, one good for the workplace, one not-so-good:

  • She’s inspiring women, particularly young women with young families.
  • She’s handing an excuse for any male-dominated companies to validate their misogyny.

We’ve talked to a number of women returning to work after having a baby and they love Sandberg. The message they hear is “You have power. You are in control of your career.”

Frankly, that’s not a message this group of women usually hear. They’ve been told that leaving at 5 p.m. to pick up children from daycare means the end of their ambitions. Period.

What happens when women (and men) stop believing that? Suddenly 50 per cent of the workforce feels empowered to take charge at work and still attend soccer games. And that shows the other 50 per cent they can do the same.

That can only be good for everybody.

On the other hand, Sandberg’s message also includes a dark belly of blame. If a woman’s career isn’t taking off, it’s tempting to say she isn’t stepping up enough.

In certain industries, particularly the high-tech industry, that’s dangerous. The tech industry already has a notorious streak of misogyny within it, where woman are viewed as alien, or as objects, and not as people, friends, coworkers. equals.

Just this week, for instance, the MIT Media Lab embarrassed itself by issuing wristbands with sexist quotes at its SXSW party.

That’s not an isolated incident. Women gamers face ongoing sexual harassment. Women programmers have it even worse, as the Twitter hashtag movement #1ReasonWhy shows. Women programmers took to Twitter to vent their frustration.

The men in these industries don’t need a reason to pass over a woman for a promotion, but Sandberg gives them one anyway: “She didn’t lean in. She didn’t prove she wanted it.”