This. This. A thousand times, this.
My overall thoughts of Sheryl Sandberg's call to women in Lean In, are summarized nicely by Charles Clymer:
The premise of the lean in movement is that no matter how bad the misogyny they face, women should hang in there and not give up. While this may be a helpful philosophy for some, it ignores the harsh truth that the vast bulk of the problem has nothing to do with how much women are willing to endure, but how much institutions — and the men who run them — force them to endure.
Preach. I can't tell you how many arguments I've been in where I've stated that women can "lean in" until they are blue in the face, but it won't make a dent in the institutional barriers that they face. There needs to be a call to action to the men.
Women have earned more bachelor's degrees than men every year since 1982, more master's degrees since 1987, and more doctorates since 2006. The gap in bachelor's degrees is especially startling: 56.7% of 2013 graduates are women, a margin of 13.2%. Were it an election, this would constitute a landslide victory.
Yet women still make up only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 18.2% of the U.S. House of Representatives, 20% of the Senate, 27.4% of college presidents, 19.5% of law partners and 30.4% of active physicians. And then there's the gap in earnings. Are we really to believe that the reason women are dramatically underrepresented in every industry is because they're not trying hard enough? Or not leaning in enough?
Noting the very real potential of being gaslighted into oblivion, Clymer says he doesn't blame Sandberg for avoiding criticism of her male peers, and that "Sandberg does what she can: empowering women while simultaneously keeping the topic in our national discourse." But men have been observers of the Lean In revolution for too long and it's time to step up.
All this is to say that Americans need to spend a little less time criticizing women for doing too little and a lot more time holding men accountable. It's okay to encourage women to stick with it and to lean in, but the bulk of this conversation needs to focus on getting men to "dig deep" and ask the hard questions of themselves. We need to challenge all men — regardless of their self-identified progressive values — to advocate for women where it really counts: in front of other men.
Do I think women need men to fight for them? No. But women do need us to stand beside them, especially in spaces where few or no women are present to stand. From every water cooler conversation at work, to every night out with the guys, substantial challenges to our cultural sexism have enormous potential in men brave enough to speak up in predominantly male spaces.