“We know that men still run the world,” Sheryl Sandberg announced at Cannes. “I am not sure it is going all that well.”
That’s kind of rich coming from a billionaire who basically runs one of the world’s most powerful companies. Through her role as Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sandberg wields extraordinary influence in politics, journalism, consumer products, and culture, on a global basis. And yet she insists on arguing that women have it bad everywhere and the world is screwed.
Your company’s stock is up 487% since it went public. You’ve made a fortune. Is it all so bad? (Sandberg did experience terrible personal tragedy with the death of he husband a few years ago.)
Speaking at the big advertising conference in Cannes this week, Sandberg and her fellow panelists argued that “too many advertisers continue to act upon an unconscious bias” against women that is omnipresent and insidious. Which also extends to the old topic of those nefarious “fashion magazines that still rely heavily on traditionally sexist images. Women wearing little clothes, women serving as props, women air-brushed to unrealistic standards, women lounging as play toys for men. ‘Objectification still exists,’ said Sandberg’s fellow panelist Madonna Badgers. ‘It is easy and quick.’”
Sandberg makes a point of saying that men “have to be part of the conversation (over bias).”
“We made the case for men that it is good for the world, but it is also good for them,” says Sandberg. She cites research that married straight couples have stronger relationships when men help with household chores.
“Don’t buy flowers, do laundry,” she jokes. Sandberg adds that research finds 14-year-old girls will have broader career aspirations if they see their fathers doing housework. “This is something we can do to help the next generation.”
It is, of course, perfectly reasonable for families to make individual choices that work for their specific situations. It is also possible to question research that boils down massively complex social dynamics into clean, direct correlations.
Millions of women have come in contact with Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy, and for some it has been hugely inspiring. It might be nice if sometimes people such as Sandberg celebrated what’s working in the world, instead of spouting bumper sticker bromides. Especially when they’re sitting in the South of France at the very top of the food chain.