Sheryl Sandberg: Too many men think hiring a few women makes their companies diverse
Sandberg admits she hasn’t fully solved the diversity problem at Facebook, where she is COO, either
By Julie Bort
Too many corporate leaders think that sprinkling a few women into the ranks here and there is all they need to do have a diverse workforce, Sheryl Sandberg says.
“Nearly 50 per cent of men think that when just 1 in 10 senior leaders in their company is a woman, that’s sufficient. And remarkably, a third of women agree. When so many people see a leadership team that’s only 10 per cent women—who, let’s remember, are half the population—and think, ‘That’s good enough,’ it’s a sign that we’re too comfortable with the status quo,” Sandberg wrote in an Op Ed for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
She was remarking on a finding of the new 2017 Women in the Workplace report, a joint study by Sandberg’s Lean In’s organisation and McKinsey & Co. released on Tuesday.
Sandberg is known as the tech industry’s most visible feminist, having launched her Lean In organisation by way of a best-selling book back in 2013.
Beyond the scant number of women in leadership roles, Sandberg also railed against the lack of people of color in leadership roles, particularly Black women, but also Asians and Latinas.
Sandberg quoted one Black woman from the workplace report who said: “We can have the same degree, the same years of work…[but] we are not tapped on our shoulders as often as other folks are. And we’re not getting feedback on why.”
Doctor, heal thyself?
We can’t help pointing out that there’s some irony to Sandberg’s opinions. While she’s doing great work to bring high-level attention to the lack of workforce equality, she’s also the chief operating officer at Facebook. That means operating tasks like hiring fall in her domain.
And Facebook’s own track record here isn’t exactly role model material. In August the company released its annual diversity report. While Facebook is among the most diverse work force in the tech industry, that’s not saying much.
The company is still nowhere near achieving the kind of diversity balance she’s pushing the whole corporate world to achieve.
For instance, just under one-third of Facebook’s new hires for engineering jobs are women. In a world where women often make up around 17 per cent of the tech roles at tech companies, that’s a move in the right direction. But it also means that two-thirds of new engineering hires are still men. That’s not exactly 50/50, even in new hiring. Overall, women still make up only 19 per cent of Facebook’s tech roles.
At the same time, 72 per cent of the company’s senior leaders are men. Only one out of five of its executive leaders is a woman (Sandberg herself). Only two out of eight of its board members are women.
Facebook has increased its Black employees, as well as Hispanic employees, by one per cent each and that brings Facebook’s Black population to three per cent and its Hispanic population to five per cent. Just to compare to the general US population, Black people make up about 15 per cent and Hispanics about 16 per cent.
Look at the ‘blind spots’
Her answer as to why corporate America can’t seem to become an equal opportunity employer despite its efforts: “Blind spots are getting in our way,” she writes.
She says that “men look right past” the lack of diversity and are more likely to believe that their companies are already doing what it takes to hire a more diverse workforce. Men, who still hold most of the leadership roles, are also more likely to believe that disrespectful behaviour toward women is being quickly addressed, the workplace study found.
Sandberg’s solution is two fold: 1) make the economic case for why a better represented workforce is a good thing. 2) make sure managers know, and will be rewarded, for building diverse teams themselves.
But, as important as her words are, they would carry even more weight if she achieved those diversity numbers at Facebook, too.
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