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Sheryl Sandberg: We need to see how far we are from equality

A new report from McKinsey and shows that women in the workplace aren't doing so well and that men don't seem to see it.


Sheryl Sandberg's and McKinsey & Co. conducted a massive study of women in the workplace. 

Antoine Antoniol/Getty

A lot of men out there just don't get it.

That's one of the big takeaways from the "Women in the Workplace 2017" report out Tuesday from management-consulting firm McKinsey & Co.  The report was conducted in partnership with, a nonprofit founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that focuses on women's empowerment.

The report surveyed more than 70,000 employees from 222 companies and found that many men feel pretty good about how diversity efforts are going at their companies.

In fact, 50 percent of men surveyed think that if women make up 10 percent of their company's senior leadership, that's good enough. Fifty-five percent of men think that disrespectful behavior toward women is often or always addressed quickly, compared with 34 percent of women.

Meanwhile, the numbers of women further up the corporate ladder continued to thin out -- women make up about 18 percent of C-Suite roles and women of color only 3 percent.

"These gender gaps persist even though companies' commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high. What's going wrong?" Sandberg wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Tuesday discussing the report.

For tech in particular, the push to diversify has never been harder. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and others have unveiled plans to attract more women and minorities to their ranks through everything from outreach programs and partnerships to re-evaluations of hiring practices and pay scales. In 2015, Intel pledged $300 million toward diversity efforts.

And yet, year after year, percentages of women and minorities in tech workforces increase only slightly, progress that former US CTO Megan Smith called "abysmal" at last week's Grace Hopper Celebration, a conference dedicated to the advancement of women in computing.

Sandberg said the effort seems to have stalled out because of what she called blind spots.

"It's hard to solve a problem we don't fully see or understand -- and when it comes to gender in the workplace, too often we miss the scope and scale of the issue," she said. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report touches on other ways being a woman in the workplace can be fraught. Many women do ask for promotions, for example, but there's a catch. Compared with men who negotiate and women who don't, women trying for a raise are more likely to be labeled bossy, intimidating and aggressive. is combating this stigma with Ban Bossy, a campaign that criticizes the use of the word "bossy" to describe assertive women and girls. A video for the campaign, which includes big names such as entertainers Beyoncé and Jennifer Garner and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice highlights how ambition in women and girls is often cast as something negative. After all, being called bossy isn't a compliment.

And if you're a woman of color, the challenges are compounded. Women of color are more underrepresented, get promoted at a slower rate and get less support from managers. Black women in particular are the least likely to have contact with anyone on a senior level.

But most of all, the report showed a disconnect between how companies and employees view diversity efforts. Ninety percent of companies say they prioritize gender diversity, while only 42 percent of employees think that's the case.

"We won't unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are," Sandberg said.

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