A majority of men say there are enough women in leadership roles

Getty Images | David Shoppe

"How many of you think it's okay if one in 10 subway stations run on time?" That's the question Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg asked a crowd at the third annual Wall Street Journal Women in the Workplace dinner on Monday evening. No one raised their hand.

Yet, one in 10 senior leaders is a woman and 50 percent of men think that's good enough, according to Sandberg, citing a Women in the Workplace study that was released by her LeanIn foundation and the consultancy firm McKinsey & Company. More shocking still, 30 percent of women agree.

Though women have undoubtedly made progress in the workplace, said the Facebook COO, they still have a long way to go. The data backs up her claims.

In a recent survey, job site Comparably compiled data from over 24,000 employees who were asked the following six questions:

  1. Do you think there are enough women in leadership positions at your company?
  2. Do you feel that you've been held back in your career because of your gender?
  3. Do you prefer to work with women or men?
  4. What do you think would most improve office cultures across different companies?
  5. Does your company encourage open discussion of workplace issues related to gender and diversity?
  6. Have you ever been sexually harassed at work?

The study found that a majority of men, 60 percent, feel that there are enough women in leadership positions at their company, slightly higher than Sandberg's findings. At 49 percent, almost half of the female respondents agreed.

In the tech sector, which has been criticized for the lack of women in leadership positions, the rates were roughly the same. Over half of the male respondents, 58 percent, and 46 percent of female respondents say that there are enough women in leadership roles at their company.

Sandberg speculates as to what the problem is during her speech. "I think what it is, is the tyranny of low expectations," she says. "This has been happening for so long."

On the flip side, the Comparably survey found that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to feel that there are not enough women in leadership roles, as shown by this chart:

At 47 percent, workers with a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree were more likely to think that there aren't enough women in leadership at their companies, compared to 69 percent of those with a high school diploma, some college or an associate's degree.

Focusing on the tech industry once more, those who worked in HR, business development or marketing feel the least confident that there are enough women in leadership roles at their company, as shown in this chart:

At Monday's summit, Sandberg said that the starting point in promoting more women to senior positions is to acknowledge the unconscious biases workers have.

"I have it too. We all have the biases against women in leadership," she said. "We respond to people that fit our stereotypes. That's why we still call little girls bossy."

But most importantly, if women participated in the labor force at the same rate as men, it would lead to a 5 percent growth to the U.S. GDP, said Sandberg.

"Fixing leadership for gender, fixing leadership for race, fixing leadership for women of color, we don't want it to be just the right thing to do. Although let's be clear, it is," she said. "This is a business and economic issue."

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See also:

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Why some white men feel excluded in the workplace, according to an EY study
Why some white men feel excluded in the workplace, according to an EY study