Sheryl Sandberg's new book "Lean In" challenges men in the upper echelons of corporate America to take more women under their wing.
Sandberg is on a promotional blitz for the new book, which has been praised as an ambitious reboot of feminism and criticised as a manifesto directed to women from a privileged perch. On Tuesday, she said men need to amp up their mentoring of women, especially younger ones just starting out in their careers.
Noting that men hold 86 percent of the top jobs in corporate America, Sandberg said in a interview Tuesday that, "We want women to get into those jobs, but if we don't get older men to mentor and sponsor younger women, this will never happen."
Sandberg's book was born out of talks she gave starting in 2010 about how the world has scant female leaders in politics and corporations.
After studying at Harvard and working at the US Treasury Department, Sandberg rose to the top of Silicon Valley, jumping from Google to Chief Operating Officer at Facebook while raising two children.
Sandberg acknowledged that there are stereotypes and double standards to tear down in mentoring relationships. An older man and a younger woman seen together at dinner or drinks looks like a date, while two men discussing business together looks perfectly normal, she said.
To underscore Sandberg's point, "Lean In" highlights a study published by the Centre for Work-Life Policy and the Harvard Business Review that found men in high positions at companies were nervous meeting a younger woman one-on-one.
She also recounts an encounter with Larry Summers, who as US Treasury Secretary served as her boss. Working on a speech together one night until 3 a.m. in South Africa, Sandberg had to make sure no one saw her step out of Summers' hotel room so late at night. Men, for example, never have to worry about that situation and it helps them move up faster in a corporate environment, she said.
"I want everyone to have the same policies for everyone and get explicit about them," Sandberg said.
Besides mentoring, she said male corporate executives need to be more cognizant of how women are perceived negatively once they start moving up. She calls this a "likeability gap" that holds women back from being ambitious. Managers should think twice before they give a performance review that calls a woman "aggressive," she said.
"As a woman gets more successful, everyone likes her less. This completely changes how women are portrayed in the office. What I believe is if you can make people aware of this bias that we all face - men and women alike - we can change it," she said in a separate television interview with Reuters.