The news world went a little crazy this week covering Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO. In her book Lean In, Sandberg talks about how men still hold the vast majority of leadership and power roles across the globe. When you hear her statistics, it’s hard to dispute where we stand on equality, even in the most advanced societies in the World.
For me, this is very personal.
Even in my family
I’m a French attorney and my brother is a school teacher. My mother is the mayor of my hometown, not a common thing in France. My father made the curtains. Even in this seemingly gender-equal household, my parents struggled to accept a daughter as an attorney and a son as a school teacher. Yes, it is that deep in our psyche and even in my own upbringing by intellectual French parents.
I want it to be different and tell a story about the equality I enjoyed in my society and family, but my achievements don’t speak to that. My achievements are an exception to the way things usually work and I chose my path knowing I’d be criticized. I had to listen to teachers, fellow students and coworkers telling me I was ‘as good as a man’, as though that was something I had to earn and was a high honor.
Equality isn’t really about gender. It is far more universal than any one group.
Equality is universal or not
Take a look across the world at the status of equality. It is in awful condition and while we may have moved light years from the feudal ages, we’re still far from living in a world where people have the same opportunities. Children in Myanmar are paid to carry garbage through the streets rather than be in school. Young girls aren’t educated because it isn’t good strategy.
You can be sure that the child in this picture is part of a world dominated by men and the decisions of men. It all ends up being part of a spectrum from this horrible low to our relative high, where women have some opportunity, but not equality. Every day, we ‘give away’ half of the brain power available to us when we don’t educate and employ women at the same level as men and we give away far more when we don’t give everyone equal opportunity.
Consider the waste.
Sandberg on TED
From Sandberg’s December 2010 TED Talk, Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders:
Women are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world. The numbers tell the story quite clearly: 190 heads of state, 9 are women. Of all the people in parliaments in the world, 13 percent are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top, C-level jobs, board seats, top out at 15, 16%. The numbers haven’t changed since 2002 and are going in the wrong direction.
Take the time to watch this video and see if it doesn’t change your perspective on equality. This isn’t about feminism or any other ism. The challenge is simply treating humans as equals and offering each the same opportunities.