Is this what rage looks like for Sheryl Sandberg?

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, could bring more fire.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, could bring more fire.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, appears to be fed up.

In an op-ed she posted today on Facebook, Sandberg reports on findings from the 2018 Women in the Workplace survey. Produced by Sandberg’s Lean In organization and McKinsey & Company, the research provides an annual snapshot of women’s progress as leaders in corporate America. The problem is that this year’s picture looks a lot like last year’s, which looked too much like the one the year before.

Sandberg, who normally strikes a serious but decidedly optimistic tone in her statements about women’s equality, seems almost stern in this message, a version of which was also published by the Wall Street Journal (paywall). She urges companies to start following their words with actions and compares women’s attempts to advance in the workplace to a race in which men start out with a huge, unfair advantage.

“There is a disconnect in corporate America,” she begins. “Year after year, companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity. But the proportion of women in their organizations barely budges. For this to change, companies need to treat gender diversity as the business imperative it is.”

As it did in 2017, the survey results suggest that progress has stalled: “Women continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level, and it’s even worse for women of color,” Sandberg writes, “Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and just one in 25 is a woman of color.” To date, it seems, any momentum to be gained from the #MeToo movement, now past its first anniversary, is yet to be reflected in management and leadership statistics.

Sandberg wants to be clear that it’s not women who are somehow sabotaging their own efforts to get ahead at work. “Women are doing their part,” she writes. “They’ve been earning more bachelor’s degrees than men for over 30 years. They’re asking for promotions and negotiating salaries as often as men. And contrary to conventional wisdom, women are not leaving the workforce at noticeably higher rates to care for children—or for any reason.”

For women who are reacquainting themselves with their rage, without second-guessing its validity, Sandberg’s post will still seem polite and subdued. A modern Medusa, she is not. Nevertheless, the frustration is palpable.

Read the full op-ed here: