Lack of self confidence and the fear of being unlikable are a few of the reasons that women don’t step into more leadership roles.
In “Lean In: Women, Work And The Will To Lead,” by Sheryl Sandberg, Sandberg offers up advice on the current climate regarding how men approach their careers and how women should approach their careers.
“Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 17 are led by women,” says Sandberg. “Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally. In the United States, where we pride ourselves on liberty and justice for all, the gender division of leadership roles is not much better.”
According to Sandberg women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States in the early 1980’s. Since then, women have slowly and steadily advanced, earning more of the college degrees, taking more of the entry-level jobs and entering more fields previously dominated by men. Despite these gains, the percentage of women at the top of corporate America has barely budged over the past decade.
Twenty-one of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are women. Women hold about 14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.
“The gap is even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats and 5 percent of congressional seats,” says Sandberg. “While women continue to outpace men in educational achievement, we have ceased making real progress at the top of any industry. This means that when it comes to making the decisions that most affect our world, women’s voices are not being heard equally.”
After reading these horrific facts the question that should come to mind is, How can we knock down the barriers that prevent women from getting to the top?
The truth of the matter is women face real life barriers including: blatant and subtle sexism, discrimination and sexual harassment. Also, men have an easier time finding mentors and sponsors. Another barrier is that women have to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men do.
According to a 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.
Sandberg points out that in addition to the external barriers created by society, women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves.
“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. 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. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve.”
Lean In is an empowering tool. It’s important for women to let go of what society deems as appropriate behavior for the career driven woman. Hopefully in the near future we will see more women leaning in.