Quoting a Facebook mantra, COO Facebook Sheryl Sandberg said that gender and racial “inequities” are “everyone’s problem” in an Ask Me Anything-style forum on Quora.
She was answering a question about what men can do to create an environment where women can succeed in the tech industry. After citing an inspirational Facebook poster that reads “Nothing at Facebook Is Someone Else’s Problem,” she said, “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,” she added. She went on to offer these three pieces of advice:
Educate yourself and others about bias
Sandberg said that unconscious bias leads to a lot of inequity, noting that job applicants named John are always offered a higher salary than those named Jennifer, and job applicants with names considered “black” are often passed over in favor of their white counterparts. Fundamentally unconscious biases are categorizations our brains make in order to make sense of the world. In effect, it means drawing broad generalizations about certain names, skin colors, and genders so we don’t have to think about how an individual operates.
The way to combat this, Sandberg said, is to suss out your own biases and confront them. She offered Facebook’s open video tutorials on unconscious bias as a starting point for anyone interested in educating themselves on the subject. Sandberg first unveiled Facebook’s unconscious bias training over the summer.
But Facebook is not the first to experiment with unconscious bias training, nor is it likely to be the last. Google also launched an internal unconscious bias training program, a video of which can be seen here.
Start or join Lean In Computer Science and Engineering Circles
“The solution to getting more women into CS is… getting more women into CS,” said Sandberg. In the past few years, a number of women have talked about feeling pressured out of the workplace because they were made to feel like they didn’t fit in.
Two years ago the Anita Borg Institute teamed up with LeanIn.org and LinkedIn to create Lean In Circles, small discussion group meetings that help women explore their interest in technology and get feedback and mentorship from their peers. Today there are over 25,000 such groups in 180 countries around the world. The groups also serve as a sounding board for women who need help navigating the social politics of asking for a raise and highlighting their achievements in an appropriate way.
Sandberg advised men who want to take action to join or start a Lean In group in their area. Her hope is that men who care about achieving workplace equality can help create a community where women can be inspired and encouraged. She noted that while the groups are focused on helping women in tech, men are welcome to attend and give their support.
Be a 50/50 partner at home
Finally, Sandberg made an obvious assertion that’s often overlooked: “We cannot get to an equal world without men leaning in at home.” Another big complaint from women is that despite working a full-time job, they are often saddled with the majority of housework and child rearing — a sentiment borne out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this year. Getting men to be equal partners in the home could certainly alleviate some pressure on women and make their time spent in the office more productive.
Sandberg also called on others in the industry to help parents by offering enough time off, nodding to the two months that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking to help with his newborn first daughter. Facebook offers a generous four-month leave package for all new parents.
To some, Sandberg’s recommendations might seem obvious. While the advice isn’t fresh, it needs repeating until women and minorities start seeing significant change in both employment opportunities and pay.
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