It will take me a while to study the recently published report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2015. Sheryl Sandberg’s piece announcing the report in the Wall Street Journal, “When Women Get Stuck, Corporate America Gets Stuck,” takes little time to read. And it didn’t take long for the commentary to start. As of this writing (hours after it hit the internet), most of the comments are from men. And many of those can only be called defensive, hostile and closed-minded. I doubt many looked at, let alone studied, the report itself. They reacted to Sandberg’s article itself with hostility.
Some of the comments are vicious personal attacks on Sandberg. Many simply cling to the argument that women prefer a domestic role and don’t really want to reach the executive level. (Of course not all women, or men want to be in the C-suite; the issue is whether there are barriers that make it harder for women to get there if they want to.) Several argue that CEO’s need to focus on profits, not diversity. (This ignores diversity as a source of good decisions, innovation and profits.) One trounced Sandberg for claiming, without citation, that there is a great deal of research showing that companies with gender-diverse leadership do better. (The citations are in the study – not the piece announcing the study. Need citations? Here are some.)
The article, or maybe the study or Sandberg’s outspokenness on the issue of gender diversity, obviously hit a nerve. Fifteen years ago, Susan Faludi’s book Backlash was published. The comments to this article reek of backlash. They show deep-seated fear, misunderstanding and closed-mindedness.
In my work – to help companies achieve gender-diverse leadership – I focus on the unconscious mindsets that create obstacles for women. These comments reveal more than unconscious bias. They sadden and frustrate me. We do, indeed, have a long way to go!
How do you feel about the comments?