My working life has spanned 40 years, and I well remember the heady days of feminism in the 60s and 70s; and the fight for equal pay, being a union rep to get equal working conditions, and sitting in meetings with male colleagues vehemently protesting that they had a family at home to support and women should not receive equal pay for equal work, and in the 80s working to establish workplace policies on sexual harassment and equal employment opportunities. Fighting the hard fight for women in the workplace. All this seems a distant memory, but how far have women actually come in terms of gender equality, compensation, diversity and leadership, and what about the invisible women of the world who are yet to receive emancipation, let alone equitable working conditions. Whilst the issues remain complex, subtle and difficult to tease out Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In; Women, Work and the Will to Lead (2013) ably summarises the issues facing twenty-first century women as they challenge to “sit at the table”.
Sandberg the chief operating officer of Facebook, and rated one of the world’s most influential women, combines personal anecdotes, hard data and compelling research to unbundle the layers of ambiguity and bias around the lives and choices of working women. Women continue to face real obstacles in their professional life, including blatant and subtle sexism, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Few workplaces soffer flexibility, access to child care, and adequate parental leave that is necessary while you are raising children. Women have to continue to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men do, and opportunities for promotion are hampered by a lack of self-confidence, failure to raise our hands, and pulling back when we should be learning in.
Sandberg has created an international movement to encourage a more equal world. She has started a conversation:
Sandberg, Sheryl (2013) Lean In; women, work and the will to lead. Knopf.