“What really happens when women ‘lean in’”

Drawing on the recent Sheryl Sandberg book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, a recent Washington Post article asks, “What really happens when women ‘lean in’”?  The article tackles the question of whether Sandberg’s argument that more women at the top will make things easier for women at all rungs of the career ladder is true.  Some have criticized Sandberg’s book, saying that having women at the top will only help other already privileged women reach the top, in turn leaving behind the lower ranking women who work for them.  The article, however, argues the opposite is true.

Recent research has found lower ranking women benefit from female bosses because they help minimize the wage gap between female and male employees, for example.  However, while women at the top should, in theory, make it easier for other women to reach higher positions, female bosses are not typically beneficial to senior ranking women.  This could help account for the low number of women in management and higher ranking jobs.  Research suggests women at the top may discourage other women from following in their footsteps for various reasons.  It also suggests that some women who occupy elite positions are perhaps token women promoted to prevent any potential gender bias claims against the companies they work for.

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