Choosing Both: “Lean In” and the Work-Life Question

Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 in ComLead, Integrated Marketing Communication, Organizational Leadership

Choosing Both: “Lean In” and the Work-Life Question

In a world where 50% of the population is women, shouldn’t 50% of our CEOs and national leaders should be women too? If you read last week’s post, you know that’s not the reality. This month, in honor of Women’s History Month and the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, we’re talking about women in leadership.

We’re elevating this issue not just because it’s about justice, or equality, or integrity – but because we are missing out on the rich insight and innovation that comes when we bring diversity to the table. The reality is – depending on the social institution you’re examining (legislature, world parliaments, media, corporations, etc.) – women hold between 3 and 20 percent of leadership position. 3 is abysmal, 20 is – unfortunately – great, but they’re nowhere near the 50% mark, where they should be.

Why is women’s presence in leadership so low?

It’s complicated, of course, but Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, suggests one cause is that women are simply dropping out. They’re “leaning away,” she says in her 2010 TEDtalk, when they should be “keeping their feet on the gas pedal.”

Many women make the choice to leave work to focus more on their families or other priorities, but others never climb to leadership in their careers simply because they can’t be what they can’t see. Without examples of women leaders in the media and in our everyday realities, we struggle to become the leaders we envision.

“Women systematically underestimate their own abilities,” Sandberg explains. They tend not to negotiate for themselves and attribute their successes to outside factors rather than innate ability. Why? Research proves that for men, success leads to likeability. But for women, success makes them appear less likeable. Do we fear, even unconsciously, that we’ll be disliked when we earn power and influence? I think back on the times I’ve tried to hide success from classmates or coworkers, and the answer is yes.

“I want my daughter to have the choice to not just succeed, but to be liked for her accomplishments,” says Sandberg. To create that world, we start by becoming the role models we ourselves needed. By advocating for ourselves, and choosing to like and support other successful women, we break that cycle. An essential part of that journey is awareness. Explore these issues and be a part of the solution by joining Miss Representation at Canisius College on March 26.

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