Sheryl Sandberg Stands Up for ‘Bossy Girls’ at Davos
12:30 pm, January 28th | by Colette McIntyre
On Friday Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and The Jane Dough’s spirit animal, spoke on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and she did not hesitate to let the audience know what was up — namely that gender stereotypes are the worst and yet they continue to hold women back from rising in the work force.
In a session titled “Women in Economic Decision-Making”, where five of the six panelists were women, Sandberg discussed the mixed messages that society sends to young girls. She cited a line of children’s T-shirts that she found in the US that were emblazoned with phrases “Smart Like Daddy” and “Pretty Like Mommy.”
“I would love to say that was 1951, but it was last year,” she said. “As a woman becomes more successful, she is less liked, and as a man becomes more successful, he is more liked, and that starts with those T-shirts.” The negative relationship between women and power begins early: “Little girls are called bossy,” Sandberg told the audience. “Anyone at Davos who as a girl was called bossy? If you got to Davos, you were that. I was.”
The phenomena extends to the very language used to describe female employees, Sandberg continued. Oftentimes managers will evaluate a female employee’s performance and will include irrelevant observations such as “not as well like by her peers” or “a bit aggressive.” “They say this with no understand that this is the penalty women face because of gender stereotypes,” Sandberg said. She then compared the business world to a marathon, where “everyone’s cheering the men on. The messages for women are different: are you sure you want to run, don’t you want to run, don’t you have kids at home?”
Sandberg focused most of her animosity on the so-called “second shift” that working mothers are forced to navigate: “Women still have two jobs in the most developed countries around the world; men have one. From the moment they leave school, the messages for women are different: ‘Don’t you want to have kids one day?’” The incomprehensible truth that the United States is last among its industrialized peers to provide paid leave for new mothers proves that there remains gender biased policies in the workplace.
Panel moderator and INSTEAD business professor Herminia Ibarra further supported Sandberg’s assertions with stunning statistics: while women make up sixty percent of European university graduates, only four to five percent of female graduates become CEOs and only fourteen to sixteen percent of corporate board members in developed countries are women.
The discrepancy is demonstrated by Davos itself: the conference had only seventeen percent female attendees. Well, and Charlize Theron. She’s in a league of her own.
[Photo via Guardian]