“Be a 50/50 partner at home”: Sheryl Sandberg on how men can support women in tech

Leaning in.
Leaning in.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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This question originally appeared on Quora: What should men do (and not do) to support the growth of women in tech? Answer by Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook and founder of LeanIn.Org.

One of my favorite posters at Facebook says, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.” The inequities that persist are everyone’s problem: gender inequality harms men and women, racism hurts whites and minorities, and equal opportunity benefits us all. We need to help everyone understand that equality is necessary for our industry and economy.

We quite simply can’t afford to miss out on the contributions of half the population. The numbers of women in tech are plummeting: women were 35% of CS majors in 1985, but only 18% today. Women are missing out on high-impact, flexible, well-paid, and exciting careers, and the industry is missing out on their ideas. By 2020 the United States will have 1 million unfilled roles in computer science and engineering; if women majored in CS at the same rate as men we could cut this gap in half.

There is a huge incentive for men to support the growth of women in the workplace and many things men can do:

  • Educate yourself and others about bias. One of the most important things we can do to promote diversity in the workplace is to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have. All of us—including me—have biases. Organizations which consider themselves highly meritocratic actually show more bias. To share just one example, people with so-called “black-sounding names” get fewer callbacks for interviews after submitting resumes than those with “white sounding names”—and applicants called “Jennifer” are likely to be offered a lower salary than applicants called “John.” We need to educate ourselves about bias and take actions to manage our biases. At Facebook, we developed a Managing Bias training and made it available online for others to use.
  • Start or join “Lean In” computer science and engineering circles. The solution to getting more women into CS is getting more women into CS. This is because stereotypes are self-reinforcing; computer science and engineering classes feel “male” because they are dominated by men. As one CS student told me, “There are more Davids than women in my CS department.” We can all help women feel less isolated by creating communities to support them. Facebook partnered with LinkedIn, Anita Borg, and LeanIn.Org to launch Lean In Circles for students and professionals in computer science and engineering. Lean In Circles are small groups that meet regularly to support each other. Circles help women—and men!—Lean In to their ambitions and their work. 80% of members credit their circle with making a positive change in their life. More than 240 CS&E circles have been started and thousands of women and men have joined the chapters online.
  • Be a 50/50 partner at home. We cannot get to an equal world without men leaning in at home—and those who do have stronger marriages and healthier, happier, more successful children. If you’re a manager or leader, think about what you can do to make work work for parents. For example, at Facebook we believe that mothers and fathers deserve the same level of support when they are starting and growing a family so we offer all parents around the world four months of paid leave. In fact, Mark is on paternity leave now.

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More from Quora:

Sheryl Sandberg: What was it like for you to start at Facebook and work in a young, hacker-centric culture?

Sheryl Sandberg: Who is your role model?

Sheryl Sandberg: What is your secret weapon for creating a great company culture across several locations with distant timezones?