Sheryl Sandberg Hopes Women Lean In And Men... Man Up? (How Men Can Support The Women's Movement)

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How to help men help women succeed in business and life. By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0)

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has certainly sparked discussion with her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, released this week. Amidst the debate of whether she should or can lead the next generation of young women to become ambitious leaders, I dread the never-ending onus criticism of women. Now what about the men who want to support, and can support, women as leaders?

Mentors, Sponsors And The "Jack Donaughys" Of The World

Some say women don't ask. Some say women do ask, but aren't rewarded for their efforts. A recent Catalyst study shares, “When women did all the things they have been told will help them get ahead, they still advanced less than their male counterparts and had slower pay growth." That's not exactly inspiring...

What women need are sponsors, not mentors, in the workforce to pull deserving women up into the male-dominated board rooms, executive teams, founding teams of high-growth startups, etc.

How Men Can Support Women

Can men participate in the women's movement? How do we support women in the workplace?

  1. By actively speaking out when you see or hear behavior online or off that is sexist, misogynistic or generally denigrates women – say something about it. This is especially important in exclusively male, or male-dominated environments where other voices of dissent may not be heard. For example, a quick "hey dude, that wasn't cool" to check a misogynistic remark or email thread would be golden. Make everyone a pocket gopher.
  2. By making sure you have not filtered out women from participating on your team. This also goes for venture capitalists looking for deals - don't filter out the women entrepreneurs because they don't look like the stereotype of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. A diverse team leads to a stronger business. For entrepreneurs building early-stage companies, having a room full of guys and trying to hire women later into that male-dominated environment will be daunting for everyone. Think big picture and hire women early in the startup life/hiring cycle for key roles.
  3. By practicing being more aware. Practice noticing who is in the room. Count the number of white people in a room. Count the number of women in a room. Count the number of people of color. Is your office culture and vernacular heteronormative? Are you aware of people's class and backgrounds? Work for a culture of inclusion that doesn't pervade the systemic sexism in tech.

To solve the women in tech problem, we need to solve the everyone in tech problem. Men and women alike can start today in actively practicing a culture of inclusion that the next generation would be proud of. Be the change that you wish to see in the world, like the dad who hacked his daughter's Donkey Kong game to genderswap her avatar.

Imagine this: it's the little things that kill. Pile years upon years of tiny subtle barbs, snubs in promotions/raises, sexist comments, and being always the only woman in the room - and you have women leaving the career ladder before they make it to the top. They don't lean in, they bow out. And until we change the conditions for women, from paid family leave to an inclusive workplace, so women aren't fighting the uphill battle alone, we simply can't be surprised at the current state we're in.

Photo credit: Someecards.com. About the writer: Angie Chang is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups. Previously, Angie held roles in product management and web UI design. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.

Women 2.0 readers: How are you celebrating International Women's Day today? Let us know in the comments!