After years of saying women need to "lean in" to their workplaces in order to climb up the ladder, Sheryl Sandberg is now saying it's time for companies to do the same too.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday, Sandberg wrote that for more than 30 years, women have been earning more bachelor's degrees than men, yet they still remain underrepresented in organizational charts. The findings arise from the 2018 edition of the Women in the Workplace survey, carried out by Sandberg's Lean In organization and McKinsey & Company, which examines the experiences of more than 64,000 employees and 279 U.S. companies. Despite companies making commitments to gender diversity, the data shows that progress has largely stalled.

"If companies continue to hire and promote women to manager at current rates, the number of women in management will increase by a mere 1 percentage point over the next 10 years," Sandberg wrote. Men still hold the majority of jobs in leadership positions today, with 62 percent compared with 38 percent for women.

The report also highlights how gender imbalances within an organization actually affect its culture. When women are overlooked for job promotions, their workplaces tend to become more toxic. For example, more than half of the women in senior roles--55 percent--report that they have been sexually harassed over the course of their career. Compared with men, women are also three times more likely to be pressured to provide additional evidence proving they are competent in their jobs, particularly when they are the only women in the room. 

Companies' commitment to gender diversity also appears to be waning. According to the study, only 84 percent of businesses surveyed said they prioritize gender diversity, down from 90 percent in 2017. Additionally, employees who believe their companies are committed to gender diversity dropped to 45 percent from 56 percent last year.

For companies that want to address gender disparity in their workplaces, the report suggests a few points of attack. First, "get the basics right," which means you need to set your target goals but also keep track of your progress and hold people accountable if these are not met. Make sure your hiring and promotion practices are fair, and encourage your managers to be "champions of diversity." You can also look at your work policies and check if you're offering enough flexibility to help your employees fit work into their lives.

"If companies start hiring and promoting women and men to manager at equal rates, we can nearly close the gender gap in management over the same 10 years," wrote Sandberg. "That's a huge opportunity."

Published on: Oct 23, 2018