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Women in the Workplace | Part Two

Published On: June 19, 2014

In Part One of Women in the Work Place, we discussed the pay gap, and the statistical breakdown of women in today’s job market. In Part Two, we dig a little deeper and analyze the meaning behind these numbers.

There have been many recent mainstream movements meant to bolster the status of women in the modern work place. The largest movement comes from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her “Lean In” movement. The main tenants of the movement contend that women can overcome career challenges and break the glass ceiling by speaking up, growing supporters in the office, and working hard. Moreover, Sandberg argues that if we talk openly about the challenges that women face, and work together, we can change the trajectory of woman and make a better future for us all.

Sandberg’s “Lean In” Movement is positive and inclusive. She seeks to create a community of professional women who can rely on each other and gain the confidence they need to succeed in an overly male dominated working world. Sandberg’s book, which shares the same name as the movement, has topped the New York Time’s Best Seller List for over sixteen weeks.

However, while Sandberg’s ideology is positive and backed by some irrefutable facts (women do make less money than men, as well as, hold less positions of power), it is not without flaws.

What Sandberg neglects to address, is that she is asking women to “lean in” and participate in a system that was designed and is controlled by men. She is asking women to conform to the status quo of the business world in order to succeed, when it is the system itself that needs to change, and not women.

A new study by the Conference Board of Canada has found that an “unconscious bias” leads companies to underestimate and overlook young women employees. The study results demonstrate that only 45 per cent of young women are likely to be identified as “high potential” compared to 53 per cent of their male peers, even though 74 per cent of young women display the characteristics of “high performers” compared to only 66 per cent of their male peers. In addition, while women do face under-representation on executive boards, corporate level officials are largely unconcerned about this gender disparity.

So while Sandberg is correct in arguing that women should work together, forming a community of support, she is incorrect in placing the blame of gender disparity on the individual woman. These issues are widespread and systemic and have been indentured not only within corporate culture, but within our society for decades.

When women succeed, we all succeed. Leadership skills, business acumen, and the ability to succeed are gender irrelevant. The first step to closing the gender gap is to acknowledge that it exists, and that it is deeply ingrained into corporate culture and society and it is within this culture that changes need to be made.


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