Through a combination of entertaining anecdotes, solid data and practical advice, Lean In (2013) examines the prevalence of and reasons for gender inequality both at home and at work. It encourages women to lean into their careers by seizing opportunities and aspiring to leadership positions, as well calling on both men and women to acknowledge and remedy the current gender inequalities.
In today’s developed world, women are better off than ever before, thanks largely to the women’s movement in the past century. But though at first glance it may seem like the battle against inequality has been won, there is still much to do.
Consider compensation: In 1970, American women made 59 cents for each dollar men made in similar jobs. While that figure has risen, progress has been slow: in 2010, it was still only 77 cents. As one activist noted wryly, “Forty years and eighteen cents. A dozen eggs have gone up ten times that amount.” Nor is this problem unique to the U.S.: in Europe, the current figure is little better at 84 cents.
In addition to being monetarily undervalued, studies show that women’s performance is also unfairly denigrated. When asked to assess the performance and growth potential of otherwise equal employees, both men and women discriminate against women.
But surely this applies only to the ignorant and misogynistic, whereas we enlightened individuals would be fair?
Surprisingly, the same studies show that the more impartial the evaluator claimed to be, the more they actually discriminated against women.
This kind of “benevolent sexism” is far more dangerous than the overtly hostile kind, for the perpetrator usually has no idea how his or her attitudes hurt female colleagues and thus feels no compunction to reassess them.
At home too, inequality lingers. For example, it is broadly assumed that it is a woman’s job to raise children. When asked whether they expected their spouse to step off their career track to raise children, 46% of the men surveyed said yes, compared to only 5% of the women.
Despite tremendous strides, we are still far from gender equality.