Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO who makes workplace discrimination quiver in its ugly shoes, took the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday to tell everyone that gender stereotypes are still holding back working women, which is not okay.
Although men still manage to dominate oodles of Davos events (only 17 percent of the delegates are women despite attendance incentives aimed at evening out the gender imbalance), Sandberg spoke in a panel session where five of the six panelists were women. Recalling some truly unfortunate Gymboree onesies printed with catchy phrases like "Smart Like Daddy" for boys and "Pretty Like Mommy" for girls, Sandberg said girls are being sent mixed messages early on and it's hamstringing them for the future
I would love to say that was 1951, but it was last year. As a woman becomes more successful, she is less liked, and as a man becomes more successful, he is more liked, and that starts with those T-shirts.
She went on to discuss the many gender stereotypes managers fall prey to when evaluating a female employee's performance, explaining that managers will routinely describe women negatively as either "not as well liked by her peers," or "a bit aggressive" even though neither of those observations have anything to do with performance. Sandberg continued, "They [managers] say this with no understanding that this is the penalty women face because of gender stereotypes," before making a broader observation about the state of the woman worker in the modern economy:
Women still have two jobs in the most developed countries around the world; men have one. From the moment they leave school, the messages for women are different: "Don't you want to have kids one day?"
That is a bullshit choice to have to make, but it's still one that our society seems determined to keep asking the female members of its future workforce. Maybe that has something to do with how stingy U.S. employers are with daycare services or maternity leave, or maybe it has something to do with too many people watching Mad Men, missing every context clue, and deciding that Don Draper's domestic life is wonderful. Our education system has failed us yet again.