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Top CEO Admits Unfairness To Women In The Workplace, Vows Change

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Sheryl Sandberg Lean In

No, that’s not the headline of an Onion article. It’s proof that sometimes people can admit they’ve done wrong and try to change it. Case in point: Cisco CEO John Chambers, who released an impressively candid memo to his company admitting that he hasn’t exactly “walked the talk” when it comes to supporting women in the workplace.

Chambers released the memo after he and his executive team met with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, author of the new book Lean In, about women in the workplace. Sandberg’s book (which, full disclosure, I haven’t read yet) outlines the dilemmas faced by women in trying to move forward in the work world while still raising their families.

“While I have always considered myself sensitive to and effective on gender issues in the workplace, my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven’t made in the last decade,” wrote Chambers. “After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk … What we have been doing hasn’t worked, and it is time to adjust.”

Chambers purchased copies of the book for his senior staff and has asked that they read it in advance of an upcoming off-site meeting on the topic of gender in the workplace. And he quoted Sandberg in noting that “we can no longer pretend that biases don’t exist, nor can we talk around them … the result of creating a more equal environment will not just be better performance for our organizations, but quite likely greater happiness for all.”

As Sandberg highlights with this sentiment, gender issues don’t just affect women: they impact men, too, who are both economically and culturally pressured to spend less time with their children for the sake of a buck. So I applaud a man in power for admitting that he hasn’t done enough and for taking steps to correct his shortcomings. And hopefully there are enough people watching Cisco to hold him accountable to his goals. [All Things D]

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