When I was a child, I was always educated by my parents that I ought to think like a man, fight like a man, but act like a lady. Now I am in my 20s, still trying my best to find the balance between male thinking and female action. In China, women are having a difficult time finding a balance between home and the office all the time. On the one hand, people praise the women who scale the peaks of professional stature. On the other hand, having a happy family is regarded as the only success for women. Taking care of children, husband and parents is the most significant job for us. The cultural and economic obstacles stand in the way of equal treatment for women in the workplace.
Besides Chinese, all the women in other countries over the world face the same issue. Even though women have made great strides in the workplace, the inequality insists. In the U.S., on average the men’s projects had budgets twice as big and three times as many staffers as the women’s. Only 22% of the women, but 30% of the men, were given budgets of more than $10 million, and just 46% of the women, versus 56% of the men, received P&L responsibility (“Women in the,” 2013). In addition, female workers are still paid only 77¢ for every dollar their male colleagues make. A mere 4.2 percent of chief executive officers at Fortune 500 companies are women (Waber, 2014). The academic studies suggested that it is resulted by the fact that women are less willing to be involved in the competition and negotiate on a salary offer. Most importantly, according to Sheryl Sandberg’s speech on Ted, women are not making it to the top of a profession anywhere in the world. Only 9 women are the heads of state in the 190 countries around the world. 13% of congressman in the U.S. are women, and only 20% of leaders are women in nonprofit field (“Sheryl sandberg: Why,” 2010). It’s is an undeniable situation that men still hold the majority of the positions in government and industry.
Why do men continue to occupy a larger proportion of senior executive, managerial and upper-level professional positions? In the bestseller book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg indicated several reasons for this situation. First of all, there is a leadership ambition gap between men and women. The data clearly presents that in field after field, more men than women aspire to the most senior jobs. When jobs are described as powerful, challenging, and involving high levels of responsibility, they appeal to more men than women. Secondly, success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. People are keeping stereotyping on the basis of gender. Moreover, women face real obstacles in the professional world, including blatant and subtle sexism, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Too few workplaces offer the flexibility and access to childcare and parental leave that are necessary for pursuing a career while raising children. Men have easier time finding the mentors and sponsors who are invaluable for career progression. Plus, women have to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men do. Last but not the least, women internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives—the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. Women continue to do the majority of the housework and childcare, compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet (Sandberg, 2013).
One step further, Sheryl Sandberg provided three thought-provoking advices about how to keep women in the workplace.
Firstly, sit at the table. Sheryl hosted a meeting at Facebook, inviting fifteen executives from across Silicon Valley. All women in that meeting sat in chairs off to the side of the room and took their food last. This situation is common in workplace because women who are “assertive” are too often perceived as “aggressive” or even a word that begins with “b” and women always try to avoid this awkward thing. In another word, women are punished by the behavior which is perfectly okay for men. Through grabbing the front row, women are more like participants instead of the spectator, communicating with greater impact so the ideas can be taken seriously.
In addition, make your partner a real partner. Sandberg encouraged women to expect their partners to do the fair share of housework and children care. A woman who can find someone who is willing to share the burdens of home life will go further in her work life. When husbands do more housework, wives are less depressed, marital conflicts decrease, and satisfaction rises. When women work outside the home and share breadwinning duties, couples are more likely to stay together (Cosmopolitan, 2013).
Last, don’t leave before you leave. Many women tend to quietly lean back way before it’s time, worrying about how they will manage family and work commitments sometimes years before the issue is relevant. Additionally, pregnancy shouldn’t slow women down. Every woman is recommended to lean in to the career regardless of circumstances.
Sandberg’s suggestions in her first Ted speech are absolutely great lessons for both women and men. Sandberg laid out prescriptions women should follow to try to improve the chance of making it to the top of corporate America. In line with the development of gender equality in the U.S., it is also being achieved in China. There has been an incremental proportion of women participating in education and in professional and managerial jobs at all levels in the last decades. Sandberg’s advices work well in China. Some Lean In Circles were built and help more and more women to strengthen their belief in workplace. But the social context and challenges are somehow different from that in America.
In the interview of Sandberg on Ted named “So we lean in, now what?” , Sandberg told the story that the 29 or 30 years old women in China who are not married yet are called “left over” and are forced to marry men they don’t even love. To be honest, if I was in China right now, having a formal job, I would be arranged in many blind dates and meet some guys who match my family background and education when I am only 24. Male is constantly the breadwinner in a family and wife needs to be in charge of all the housework and children care, plus taking care of parents from both families. Even though women managers successfully develop the skills and social capital to gain promotion, we still can’t gain the recognition without a successful husband and child. It is the biggest issue hindering Chinese women from obtaining the management positions in workplace. The patriarchal structure and masculine culture present structural and societal barriers that impede women’s career progression in China.
The contribution to family is the predominant standard to measure women’s life and value in Chinese tradition, even though Chinese governments have gradually established a legal system that aims to protect the rights and interests of female employees. Male dominance is a Chinese cultural value (Rowley, 2009). The conventional family norm is for the husband to deal with the external affairs and the wife to look after the internal affairs, even though most couples are dual workers. The husband’s career takes precedence. It is not expected or tolerated that a wife be more advanced in her career than her husband. Similar to what Sandberg said, Chinese women lack motivation to advance the career because of the family responsibilities. This convention is deeply embedded in Chinese culture and education. Without the cooperation of men and change of the cultural and social context, it’s hard to truly stimulate women to make efforts for management positions.
Based on the research from Pew Research Center, women are starting the career better educated than the male counterparts, and each new group of young women entering the workforce over the past 30 years has started out at a higher average hourly wage relative to men (Pew Research Center, 2013). In general, women possess the necessary abilities and are competent to advance their careers. As Sandberg has recommended, being “aggressive”, staying in the table regardless the circumstances, and learning to share the housework with partner, women definitely could win a place in the workplace and prove that equality could be achieved. It’s a virtuous circle that the proof of equal ability of women in workplace leads to increasing women struggling for the career, then the importance and equality of women in work could be achieved.by