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In Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg advocates for equality, believing that an equal world is one where women run half of its countries and half of its companies, and men run half of the homes. “I believe that this would be a better world,” argues Sandberg. Though, in Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In bell hooks suggests that Sandberg’s argument does not address the roots of inequality. While Sandberg encourages women to aim for positions of leadership and power, she does not question why there is inequality. hooks believes understanding why there is a system of inequality is paramount to changing how that system functions. If we do not understand why a system or culture is unequal, we cannot reshape the system so that it is fair and just. Read the following excerpts. Sheryl Sandberg argues for equality. bell hooks advocates for fairness and justice. She also questions why there is inequality in the first place. Building on each of their arguments, address gender inequality? Is it enough to take a purely numerical approach where half of all women run countries and companies, or does examining a history of gender inequality to better understand how it has shaped and affects our culture needed as well?
Dedicate one paragraph to denoting each author’s opinion(s) and another to offering your own unique perspective, regarding and integrating their arguments, accordingly. All paragraphs should be at least 4-7 sentences. Write 2-5 paragraphs for this assignment.
This is not asking you to summarize the author’s thoughts and examples. It is asking for your judgment about the issue of gender inequality, and for you to start and make an argument.
There is no right or wrong viewpoint in this assignment; make specific references to the excerpts by quoting from them and connecting those passages to your own analysis and/or examples.
Use Times New Roman 12 point font, double-spaced black text.
In Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg
Today, in the United States and the developed world, women are better off than ever. We stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us, women who had to fight for the rights that we now take for granted. In 1947, Anita Summers, the mother of my longtime mentor Larry Summers, was hired as an economist by the Standard Oil Company. When she accepted the job, her new boss said to her, “I am so glad to have you. I figure I am getting the same brains for less money.” Her reaction was to feel flattered. It was a huge compliment to be told that she had the same brains as a man. It would have been unthinkable for her to ask for equal compensation.
We feel even more grateful when we compare our lives to those of other women around the world. There are still countries that deny women basic civil rights. Worldwide, about 4.4 million women and girls are trapped in the sex trade. In places like Afghanistan and Sudan, girls receive little or no education, wives are treated as the property of their husbands, and women who are raped are routinely cast out of their homes for disgracing their families. Some rape victims are even sent to jail for committing a “moral crime.” We are centuries ahead of the unacceptable treatment of women in these countries.
But knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better. When the suffragettes marched in the streets, they envisioned a world where men and women would truly be equal. A century later, we are still squinting, trying to bring that vision into focus.
The blunt truth is that men still run the world. Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 17 are led by women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally. In the United States, where we pride ourselves on liberty and justice for all, the gender division of leadership roles is not much better. Women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States in early 1982. Since then, women have slowly and steadily advanced, earning more and more of the college degrees, taking more of the entry-level jobs, and entering more fields previously dominated by men. Despite these gains, the percentage of women at the top of corporate America has barely budged over the past decade. A meager twenty-one of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold about 14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats, and 5 percent of congressional seats. While women continue to outpace men in educational achievement, we have ceased making real progress at the top of any industry. This means that when it comes to making the decisions that most affect our world, women’s voices are not heard equally.
Progress remains equally sluggish when it comes to compensation. In 1970, American women were paid 59 cents for every dollar their male counterparts made. By 2010, women had protested, fought, and worked their butts off to raise that compensation to 77 cents for every dollar men made. As activist Marlo Thomas wryly joked on Equal Pay Day 2011, “Forty years and eighteen cents. A dozen eggs have gone up ten times that amount.”
I have watched these disheartening events from a front-row seat. I graduated from college in 1991 and from business school in 1995. In each entry-level job after graduation, my colleagues were a balanced mix of male and female. I saw that the senior leaders were almost entirely male, but I thought that was due to historical discrimination against women. The proverbial glass ceiling had been cracked in almost every industry, and I believed that it was just a matter of time until my generation took our fair share of the leadership roles. But with each passing year, fewer and fewer of my colleagues were women. More and more often, I was the only woman in the room.
Being the sole woman has resulted in some awkward, yet revealing situations. Two years after I joined Facebook as Chief Operation Officer, our Chief Financial Officer departed suddenly, and I had to step in to complete a funding round. Since I had spent my career in operations, not finance, the process of raising capital was new and a bit scary. My team and I flew to New York for the initial pitch to private equity firms. Our first meeting was held in the kind of corporate office featured in movies, complete with a sprawling view of Manhattan. I offered an overview of our business and answered questions. So far so good. Then someone suggested that we break for a few minutes. I turned to the senior partner and asked where the women’s restroom was. He stared at me blankly. My question had completely stumped him. I asked, “How long have you been in this office?” And he said, “One year.” “Am I the only woman to have pitched a deal here in an entire year?” “I think so,” he said, adding “or maybe you’re the only one who had to use the bathroom.”
It has been more than two decades since I entered the workforce, and so much is still the same. It is time for us to face the fact that our revolution has stalled. The promise of equality is not the same as true equality.
A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our country’s companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world. The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve. Legendary investor Warren Buffet has stated generously that one of the reasons for his great success was that he was competing with only half of the population. The Warren Buffets of my generation are still largely enjoying this advantage. When more people get in the race, more records will be broken. And the achievements will extend beyond those individuals to benefit us all.
Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In, Bell Hooks
A year ago, few folks were talking about, Sheryl Sandberg. Her thoughts on feminism were of little interest. More significantly, there was next-to-no public discussion of feminist thinking and practice. Rarely, if ever, was there any feminist book mentioned as a best-seller and certainly not included on the New York Times Best Seller list. Those of us who have devoted lifetimes to teaching and writing theory, explaining to the world the ins and outs of feminist thinking and practice, have experienced that the primary audience for our work is an academic sub-culture. In recent years, discussions of feminism have not evoked animated passion in audiences. We were far more likely to hear that we are living in a post-feminist society han to hear voices clamoring to learn more about feminism. This seems to have changed with Sandberg’s book, Lean In, holding steady on the Times best seller list for more than sixteen weeks.
No one was more surprised than long-time advocates of feminist thinking and practice to learn via mass media that a new high priestess of feminist movement was on the rise. Suddenly, as if by magic, mass media brought into public consciousness conversations about feminism, reframing the scope and politics through an amazing feat of advertising. At the center of this drama was a young, high-level corporate executive, Sheryl Sandberg, who was dubbed by Oprah Winfrey and popular culture pundits as “the new voice of revolutionary feminism.” Forbes Magazine proclaimed Sandberg to be one of the most influential women in the world, if not the most. Time Magazine ranked her one of a hundred of the most powerful and influential world leaders. All over mass media, her book Lean In has been lauded as a necessary new feminist manifesto.
Yet Sandberg confesses to readers that she has not been a strong advocate of feminist movement; that like many women of her generation, she hesitated when it came to aligning herself with feminist concerns. She explains:
I headed into college believing that feminists of the sixties and seventies had
done the hard work of achieving equality for my generations…And yet, if anyone
had called me a feminist, I would have quickly corrected that notion…On one
hand, I started a group to encourage more women to major in economics and
government. On the other hand, I would have denied being in any way, shape, or
form a feminist. None of my college friends thought of themselves as feminists
either. It saddens me to admit that we did not see the backlash against women
around us. In our defense, my friends and I truly, if naively, believed that the world
did not need feminists anymore.
Although Sandberg revised her perspective on feminism, she did not turn towards primary sources (the work of feminist theorists) to broaden her understanding. In her book, she offers a simplistic description of the feminist movement, based on women gaining equal rights with men. This construction of simple categories (women and men) was long ago challenged by visionary feminist thinkers, particularly individual black women/women of color. These thinkers insisted that everyone acknowledge and understand the myriad of ways race, class, sexuality, and many other aspects of identity and difference made explicit that there was never and is no simple homogeneous gendered identity that we could call “women” struggling to be equal with men. In fact, the reality was and is that privileged white women often experience a greater sense of solidarity with men of their same class than with poor white women or women of color.
Sandberg’s definition of feminism begins and ends with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. From this perspective, the structures of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy need not be challenged. And she makes it seem that privileged white men will eagerly choose to extend the benefits of corporate capitalism to white women who have the courage to ‘lean in.’ It almost seems as if Sandberg sees women’s lack of perseverance as more the problem than systemic inequality. Sandberg effectively uses her race and class power and privilege to promote a narrow definition of feminism that obscures and undermines visionary feminist concerns.
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