Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg‘s publicity blitz for her best-selling book Lean In continues, and this time she’s talking with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. “I’ve never worked for a woman,” she says. “I’ve been really lucky, and I have had great mentors and great sponsors.”
The accompanying essay that runs on CNN.com is a nice summary of the idea behind the book, including the size of the crisis in women’s leadership:
Since the early 1980s, educational achievement has steadily increased for women, while leadership in the workplace has plateaued. A meager 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold about 14% of executive officer positions and 16% of board seats. The gap is worse for women of color, who hold just 4% of top corporate jobs, 3% of board seats and 5% of congressional seats.
Even more distressing, the percentage of women at the top of corporate America has barely budged over the past decade. This means that when it comes to making the decisions that most affect us all, women’s voices are not heard equally.
Part of the problem has to do with “institutional barriers: sexism, discrimination, a lack of flexibility and a U.S. public policy that lags behind that of most developed nations,” Sandberg writes. Women’s own doubts and hesitations matter, too.
And so do the actions of men in leadership. Sandberg talks to CNN about how men need to step up and serve as mentors and sponsors for women, just like her own mentors did. “It should be a badge of honor to mentor a young woman,” she says. “Not something you’re ashamed to do, not something you’re afraid someone will assume something bad, but a badge of honor that you’re willing to spend your time giving the benefit of your experience to women in the workforce. They need it.”