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Sheryl Sandberg shares 3 ways men can empower women at work

Sheryl Sandberg
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg has been one of the loudest voices fighting for gender equality in the workplace.

And yet, she says, women still face challenges in even the smallest workplace exchanges. In an interview with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman for his podcast "Masters of Scale," Sandberg discusses why some women still fear appearing too ambitious at work.

"That is because we do not embrace female leadership," she said. "We just don't. We call little girls 'bossy.' We do not call little boys 'bossy.' We tell those same women they are too aggressive in the workplace. We rarely tell men, even though we know with gender blind studies that men, are in fact, on average more aggressive in the workplace and in other ways."

Expanding on the ways in which we can better embrace female leadership, Sandberg shares three ways men can better empower women at work:

1. Vocally give credit to women for their ideas

Several studies show that when it comes to meetings, women are more likely to be interrupted, talked over, or have their ideas stolen by male colleagues.

For instances in which both a man and woman say something in a meeting and the man gets the credit, Sandberg explains how men can respond.

"If you are a man in that meeting, and you don't have to be the boss, you can be a colleague, and that happens you can say, 'That's a great idea. You know, Liz, that was your idea. Tell us about it,'" says Sandberg.

She adds, "The way to help is to recognize that there are all of these biases and to push against them and push against them aggressively."

2. Include pregnant colleagues in conversations about new opportunities

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against pregnant women. However, nearly 31,000 charges of pregnancy discrimination were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between October 2010 and September 2015, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

To ensure that you're not engaging in discrimination — consciously or unconsciously — Sandberg suggests men refrain from holding private conversations about whether or not they feel a pregnant colleague is ready for a promotion or new project.

"Ask her. She might decide she doesn't want to travel more, but she might decide she wants to do it," says Sandberg. "So often we take opportunities away from women because we assume what they want rather than giving them the full opportunities they deserve."

3. Include women in social outings and meetings

In a Harvard Business Review article titled "Men Shouldn't Refuse to be Alone with Female Colleagues," United States Naval Academy professors W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith explain why gender division creates a culture of men being promoted over women.

"When women are, in effect, quarantined, banned from solitary meetings with male leaders, including prospective sponsors and career champions, their options for advancement, let alone professional flourishing, shrink," writes Johnson and Smith.

Sandberg tells Hoffman about a case in which a Goldman Sachs partner eliminated company dinners after realizing he was more comfortable having dinners with the men in his group than the women. She also shared how after the release of her book, a male executive told her he used to only travel with the young men in his office, but now he was making a conscious effort to travel with the young women too.

"Either way is fine," said Sandberg. "You may decide all the travels and all the dinners, or no travels and no dinners. But whatever you decide make it explicit and make it equal."

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