Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg warned Sunday morning about the potential for women to wind up on the losing end of what seems like a watershed moment in feminism.
The Lean In author is cheering women on, but she writes in a lengthy Facebook post, “I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash.”
Over the last two months, every day has seemed to bring new allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men, who are facing real consequences for their actions. And people are already saying, “‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women,’” Sandberg writes.
“Actually, this is why you should,” she continues. Hiring, mentoring and promoting women is the only long-term solution to sexual harassment, which is all about power, according to Sandberg. In her post, she also outlines some basic guidelines that companies should follow if they’re serious about preventing harassment at work.
The solution certainly isn’t the so-called Pence rule ― the vice president reportedly will not dine alone with another woman unless his wife is present ― as some have suggested. Instead, Sandberg writes, men should strive to treat colleagues and employees equally. If you won’t dine or drink alone with a woman, then you shouldn’t do it with a man either.
“Doing right by women in the workplace does not just mean treating them with respect. It also means not isolating or ignoring them,” Sandberg writes. “And it means making access equal. Whether that means you take all your direct reports out to dinner or none of them, the key is to give men and women equal opportunities to succeed.”
Lean In, which was almost an instant manifesto for corporate feminism when it came out in 2013, is looking a little rusty these days. In the book, Sandberg urged women to be more ambitious in the workplace. The recent flood of sexual harassment and assault allegations make it clear that ambition and leaning in aren’t enough.
Women who are sexually harassed are more likely to quit their jobs and leave their industries, not gun for that next promotion, research has shown.
In her post, Sandberg doesn’t address this problem head-on, although she does point out that Lean In brought up the issue of men not giving women opportunities because of fear they might be accused of harassment.
“I wrote in Lean In that 64 percent of managers are afraid to be alone with a woman colleague, in part because of fears of being accused of sexual harassment,” she writes. “The problem with this is that mentoring almost always occurs in one-on-one settings. One of the most gratifying responses I got from Lean In was when senior men acknowledged that they had been giving fewer opportunities to women, often without really thinking about it. I got call after call where CEOs and some of the most senior men in many industries told me, ‘I never really thought about it before ― but you are right that I take men on the trip and to the dinner rather than women and that is unfair.’”
Perhaps then it is men who need to do some leaning in. Instead of succumbing to fear over sexual politics, they should be taking the leap and helping women advance at work. That’s the key to ultimately solving the problem of men abusing power, Sandberg writes.
“Ultimately, the thing that will bring the most to change our culture is the one I’ve been writing and talking about for a long time: having more women with more power,” she writes.
Along her way up, Sandberg says she had her share of experiences with more powerful men who tried to take advantage ― a hand on the leg, career advice that had to be given late at night and alone.
But now Sandberg is one of the most powerful female executives in the world ― at the top of a multibillion-dollar company, with 2 billion users, which likely even played a role in deciding the U.S. presidential election.
Harassment happens to her very rarely now, she writes. “Only ever with men who in that moment, feel that they have more power than I do.”