1215
author_image
Jonathan A. Segal
Partner
Share

I am pleased to share my latest article from Entrepreneur.

It is now more than three years since Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, wrote her ground-breaking book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. “Lean In,” I believe, is shorthand for “Go for it, if you want it.”

In her book, Sandberg acknowledges that there are many systemic obstacles to the advancement of women in corporate America. However, her focus is what women can do to maximize their chance of success in spite of these obstacles.

Well, more and more women are leaning in. That includes applying for leadership positions and/or negotiating for more equitable compensation.

There is some good news.

Women who lean in do better than women who don’t. However, women who lean in are also facing substantial resistance.

Late last month, Sheryl Sandberg wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal entitled: “Women Are Leaning In — But They Face Push Back.” In what could be called “Lean In 2.0,” Sandberg focuses primarily on the systemic obstacles and not on what women can do to overcome or navigate around them.

Sandberg’s article came out on the same day as a study conducted jointly by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. Among the findings: we are still more than 100 years away from there being gender equality in C-suite positions. Further, men are 30 percent more likely than women to be promoted into a management position.

This is bad news for women (and men). It is beyond dispute that businesses do not reach their full potential if there is not gender diversity among those holding leadership positions.

The ‘too aggressive’ penalty.

One of the reasons for the absence of acceptable progress in terms of gender equality is what Sandberg calls the “too aggressive penalty.” Citing the McKinsey/Lean In study, Sandberg states in the WSJ article, “women who negotiate are 67 percent more likely than women who don’t to receive feedback that their personal style is ‘intimidating,’ ‘too aggressive,’ or ‘bossy,’ and they are more likely to receive that kind of feedback than men who negotiate.”

Don’t negotiate and don’t advance. Negotiate and wear the Scarlett B coded in other terms. This is the classic double standard, and it is indefensible.

So what do we do to shatter the double standard that provides a coat of cement for the glass ceiling? Six suggestions (for starters):

1. Acknowledge the problem.

We cannot solve the problem unless those who have power to correct it acknowledge that it exists. And, too many still deny the problem. I have never experienced labor pains. But I would be a fool to deny their existence.

So share data with your leaders, for example, the McKinsey/Lean In Study. Consider sharing other academic studies framed in business terms that identify the scope of the problem. The Harvard Business Review and Catalyst.org are great resources, to name but two.

2. Don’t attack or admit bias.

Don’t attack your leaders. That will do nothing more than make them shut down, if not worse. Plus, it may be used later as an admission of organizational bias. Instead, try something like, “we know this problem exists in the business world, and we would be a bit naïve, if not arrogant, to assume we are immune from the problem.”

3. Focus training on unconscious bias.

As Sandberg and others acknowledge, some of the bias is undeniably unconscious. Focusing on the unconscious in training gives leaders a “safe” way to change. “I was not aware.” Well, now you are. Message to leaders: with conscious awareness, unconscious bias can and must be avoided.

4. Eradicating gender bias cannot be over-emphasized.

When emphasizing the need for change, talk about the business imperative: bias is bad business. Do not call the training sensitivity training. Most leaders view that as soft fluff. This is business training to maximize profitability. The message would be the same if there were no men in leadership; make that clear!

5. Show leaders how to address unconscious bias.

Leaders may not realize that their feelings are due to unconscious bias but they should be consciously aware of their emotional reactions (or they shouldn’t be leaders). When they find themselves feeling someone is too aggressive, pushy, bossy or strident (I could go on), encourage them (in their heads) to move from labels to specifics behaviors and then ask themselves the million-dollar question: do I laud this precise behavior when engaged in by a white man?

6. Hold leaders accountable.

Training leaders is just a start. We need to hold them accountable. If there is conscious bias or unconscious bias (usually evidenced by a pattern), leaders must pay a price. However, this should be done in a way where you correct the wrong but don’t create an admission of bias. This is easy to say but deceptively complex to implement. But it can be done with reasonable legal risk and substantial business upside if thoughtfully implemented.

Let me end by quoting Sandberg from Lean In: “‘She is very ambitious’ is not a compliment in our culture.” It’s on all of us to change that for our collective benefit.

 

About Jonathan A. Segal
1215
author_image
Jonathan A. Segal is a partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment Group. He is also the managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute. The Duane Morris Institute provides training for human resource professionals, in-house counsel, and other leaders at client sites and by way of webinar on myriad employment, leadership labor, benefits and immigration topics. Jonathan has served intermittently as a consultant to the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years, providing training on employment issues to federal judges around the country. Jonathan also has provided training on harassment on behalf of the EEOC as well as providing training on diversity to members of the United States intelligence agencies. Jonathan is also frequently a featured speaker at national, state and local human resource, business and legal conferences, including conferences sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Business and Industry. Jonathan’s practice focuses on maximizing compliance and minimizing legal risk. Jonathan’s particular areas of emphasis include: equal employment opportunity in general and gender equality in particular: social media; wage and hour; performance management; talent acquisition; harassment prevention and correction; and non-competes and other ways to protect your business. You can find him on Twitter @Jonathan_HR_Law .
1208
author_image
Jonathan A. Segal
Partner
Share

I am pleased to share with you my latest post to The SHRM Blog.

Last month, a study on gender and leadership conducted jointly by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. was published. Accordingly to the study, women account for only 19 percent of the C-suite executives (based on responses from 132 companies).

The numbers are even more distressing if one focuses narrowly on Fortune 500 companies. The percentage of female CEOs dropped in 2016 to only four percent. Yes, four percent.

Needless to say, women are grossly underrepresented at the top. And, that hurts women more directly but men too, because companies indisputably do better when there is gender (and other) diversity at the top.

On the same day as the study was released, the Wall Street Journal published an article written by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg “Women Are Leaning In—but They Face Pushback.” As almost everyone knows, Sandberg wrote (3 years ago) the ground-breaking book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.

When Sandberg wrote Lean In, she acknowledged the obstacles women who want to lead face. She chose to focus more heavily on how women can navigate these obstacles.

In her Wall Street Journal article, Sandberg focuses on the wall women hit when they lean in (a meme for “go for it if you want it.”) Citing the McKinsey/LeanIn study, Sandberg states: “women who negotiate are 67 percent more likely than women who don’t [negotiate] to receive feedback that their personal style is “intimidating,” “too aggressive,” or “bossy,” and they are more likely to receive that kind of feedback than men who negotiate.”

This is consistent with what Sandberg wrote in Lean In:

– “She is very ambitious is not a compliment in our culture.”

– “Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty.”

– “When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”

– “But since women are expected to be concerned with others, when they advocate for themselves or point to their own value, both men and women react unfavorably.”

Sandberg’s article is a clarion call for companies to do more. In this blog, I want to narrow the focus: men must do more.

Too often the burden of eradicating gender bias is left to women. This is wrong in so many ways.

Women and men alike are hurt by gender bias. Why should women alone tackle the problem?

Mentoring and sponsoring is essential, yet in many organizations the responsibility as it relates to women is placed almost solely on women. This investment in others diverts women in or near leadership from their own goals. Why should women bear this responsibility alone?

Men have a perspective that is needed to tackle the problem. Gender diversity is a “plus” and that includes in tackling gender bias.

We need more male allies. Of course, that means at looking at systemic issues.

But there is a lot men with influence can do “in the moment” on a day to day basis. Here are just a few examples:

– Continue to call out successes by men who work for and/or with you. But make sure you do the same for women and with the same enthusiasm. If you are aware that unconsciously this may not be your proclivity, you can consciously overcome the bias.

– If you begin to think that a woman is too assertive, pushy, bossy (get the picture?), focus on what she is doing and then ask yourself: how would I react if Jim rather than Jane were engaging in this behavior? Again, with conscious awareness of the potential unconscious double standard, you can overcome it.

– Use your voice to speak loud and often about the business benefits of gender diversity. Yes, it is a moral issue, but money talks so talk money.

– Speak up when you hear assertive women called “bitch” or worse. To ignore is to condone. There is no such thing as a passive bystander if you are a leader.

– Engage in cross-gender sponsorship and mentorship. Where men hold disproportionate power, this is necessary for women with potential to have access to power. Plus, you will learn as much as you impart.

Don’t wait for a formal program. Time is of the essence.

Sheryl Sandberg has asked women: what would you do if you were not afraid?

I ask men: how much will you do if you are secure?

This blog is not legal advice, should not be construed as applying to specific factual situations or as establishing an attorney-client relationship.

About Jonathan A. Segal
1208
author_image
Jonathan A. Segal is a partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment Group. He is also the managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute. The Duane Morris Institute provides training for human resource professionals, in-house counsel, and other leaders at client sites and by way of webinar on myriad employment, leadership labor, benefits and immigration topics. Jonathan has served intermittently as a consultant to the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years, providing training on employment issues to federal judges around the country. Jonathan also has provided training on harassment on behalf of the EEOC as well as providing training on diversity to members of the United States intelligence agencies. Jonathan is also frequently a featured speaker at national, state and local human resource, business and legal conferences, including conferences sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Business and Industry. Jonathan’s practice focuses on maximizing compliance and minimizing legal risk. Jonathan’s particular areas of emphasis include: equal employment opportunity in general and gender equality in particular: social media; wage and hour; performance management; talent acquisition; harassment prevention and correction; and non-competes and other ways to protect your business. You can find him on Twitter @Jonathan_HR_Law .