Until There are More Women in Positions of Leadership and Influence… – More Reflections Prompted by Lean In

{I presented my synopsis of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg yesterday at the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare. This book club deals with issues of social justice, poverty, equality. Lean In was a good choice. This post is prompted by the after-synopsis discussion}.

Even in places where equality seems to be taken seriously, women are still behind…

Lean InHere are short excerpts from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg:

Women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States in the early 1980s. 
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 constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.
…even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats, and 5 percent of congressional seats.
By 2010, women had protested, fought, and worked their butts off to raise that compensation to 77 cents for every dollar men made.

I was speaking to an associate minister in a large Methodist church – a female associate minister. She is gifted; talented, a fine preacher. Methodists seem to take gender equality seriously. I asked her how many of the larger, influential Methodist churches have female Senior Pastors (the “head minister” in such organizations). Her answer – practically none. Even though a large and growing percentage of ministers in the denomination are now women.

The progress is slow…

This underrepresentation at top levels is evident in most arenas, and if you will keep attuned to it, you will read that women are underrepresented in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the heads of important committees in Congress… everywhere.

And, that’s just the “equality” issue here in our country. Throughout the world, there are places where girls and women are abused, raped, killed… It is seemingly so common place that we almost “ignore” the news. In such places, forget equality, it’s almost survival that is the issue.

I suspect that it will take a lot of women, in higher positions of authority and responsibility, throughout the world, in business and in government, to begin to be able to exert enough pressure to bring about needed change in such places where the “gender” issue can practically be an issue of life and death.

I don’t have a solution to any of this. I have presented synopses of a number of books calling for the rise of women into greater positions of leadership and responsibility in the workplace – books like Lean In, and Womenomics, and Knowing Your Value, and others.

But, if we pay attention, we see that the progress on this front is so very slow. And so, the books need to continue to be written, and women and men should read them. You know the old formula – consciousness raising that leads to action…

After Lean In was published, John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco, after reading the book. required every senior to manager read it, and then actively promote women into senior management positions. If only a critical mass of CEOs in such influential positions took the same steps…


Footnote: in this month’s New York Times Business Books Best Sellers List, two of the ten books are written by women. We have presented one of the two at the First Friday Book Synopsis, #GIRLBOSS, which Karl Krayer presented. We have presented synopses of most of the best selling business books written by women over the last few years. But, in business books, as elsewhere, women authors are underrepresented in the best sellers lists.

You can purchase my synopsis of Lean In, Womenomics, and Knowing Your Value, and Karl’s synopsis of #GIRLBOSS, at our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. Each synopsis comes with our multi-page, comprehensive handouts, and the audio recording of our presentations.


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