Confession: we haven’t read Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg‘s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and we probably won’t. But we are very interested in the fierce debate that her recent press tour/PR push has ignited over the role of women in the workplace and the executive suite. It seems to be the most controversial media issue since every single journalist/blogger in the world debated the merits of HBO‘s Girls. We also think it’s relevant to a PR industry that is approximately 70% female.
Why? Because an increasing number of top PR firms will be led by women in the coming years. Sandberg’s thesis as we understand it is that the corporate world (including public relations) has made the act of being both a successful mother and a successful businesswoman incredibly difficult. She argues that success tends to lead to resentment but that, by resisting the urge to lead or “lean in”, many women limit their career opportunities in PR and other fields.
A significant portion of the public feels the same way.
A new YouGov Omnibus survey found that 53% of men and 44% of women agree with the assertion that “women can’t combine a full career and home life”, and 33% of women think that “when women get more successful, people like them less”. Perhaps even more surprisingly, 30% of respondents “believe it is difficult for men to respect women in a work environment.”
That doesn’t sound like the PR industry we know. What do we think of these findings?