When Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn was published in 2013, it created a tidal wave of discussion across the web about the responsibility women have in driving their own careers and asking for a seat at the table.
Having worked my way up to management in an industry that was totally dominated – at least at the top – by men, a lot of what Sandberg said resonated with me. I had witnessed, again and again, smart, successful sales women not ask for a promotion, or recognition, or a raise. I knew that one reason I attained all of those things is because I asked, repeatedly, and made it very clear that I saw myself as a leader within our organization.
But not everyone agreed with me about Sandberg. Across my social networks I watched passionate discussions rage around what many saw as Sandberg’s elitism; the fact that she recommended women hire help within the home without guilt felt to many as too much of a first world issue. Interestingly, when I engaged in these conversations I found that many women who objected to Sandberg’s tome hadn’t even read the book, and that saddened me for a very specific reason.
I am thoroughly convinced that the only way we are actually going to move past the recognition and complaining (loudly) stage about inequality issues at work is by joining together; women – along with the men who believe in workplace equality – helping women.
Will Millennials Change it All?
After working with Millennials and studying generational trends over the past few years, I picked up a copy of #GIRLBOSS over the holiday to see if the author, Sophia Amoruso, spoke to them in a way that was different from the women leaders of older generations.
Her story of profound success at online retailer NastyGal, along with the many challenges she faced when the company matured, may be told in younger terminology, but it is not amazingly different than other female success stories, including Sandberg’s, save one important detail:
Without the internet it is doubtful that NastyGal would have been anything more than a pet project.
So here we are in an digital world where the cost of entry to all entrepreneurs, including women, is lower than it has ever been. And we are also in a world where women still make only 77 percent of what their male counterparts do across the business world.
That baffles my mind; I am 47 years old and came into the business world twenty some years ago never dreaming that my 47 year old self would still be discussing these issues – that pay inequity would still be a thing.
The Harsh Reality of Where We Still Are
There has been a lot of trashing of the Millennial generation, but at their feet there has also been a lot of hope laid. This new, more racially diverse generation is supposed to change us profoundly.
I’ve had many discussions with Millennial women and men who believe that many of the inequality issues will fade when they come to power. I’m not so optimistic. LinkedIn’s November 2015 survey of 4,000 of its female members explains why:
“Women leave companies because of a “concern for the lack of advancement opportunity,” followed by their “dissatisfaction with senior leadership” and their “dissatisfaction with the work environment/culture.”
In an article for Huffington Post back in October, Meghan Biro laid out the harsh reality of diversity in the 21st century:
- Women represent 22.9 percent of directors, even though more than half of the American population is female.
- Women of color represent just 4.2 percent of directors; 41 companies do not have a single woman of color on their board of directors.
There is a Solution
The truth is that we still have profound issues to deal with when it comes to equality and diversity (in management) in the workplace.
But all hope is not lost; it is clear that women are gaining a voice around these issues and momentum appears to be on our side in some industries. Many, many men are on our side as well; I don’t believe we can make real change without them, which is why we are determined not to leave men out of the conversation on our Breaking Glass blab series.
We also need strong women leaders to continue to break barriers and be a voice for all of us, which is why I need your help.
In our next Breaking Glass episode on Wednesday, January 13th at 12 noon EST / 9 am PST we will be talking about the women leaders we should look to and support in order to push past the barriers woman face today.
Who are the leaders you admire? Are there women who we should be paying close attention to? We’d love to have you join that conversation and help us highlight the special women who deserve our attention.
Please share this post with the women and men in your life who care about equality in the workplace. Thanks so much for your help.
About the Author: Amy McCloskey Tobin is a content strategist and creator. She specializes in generational insights, the future of work, the remote workforce, workplace diversity, and how tech has changed the business world. Amy has worked with major online publications to develop content and content strategy. A devotee of social media, Amy believes firmly that great content begets social media community. Find Amy on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter!