THE chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, has launched a fierce attack at the World Economic Forum in Davos on the gender stereotypes that hold back women at work.
Ms Sandberg, whose book, Lean In, on women in the workplace will be released in March, singled out particular T-shirts in the US with the boys' version emblazoned with the words "Smart Like Daddy", while the girls' version said "Pretty like Mommy".
"I would love to say that was 1951, but it was last year," she said. "As a woman becomes more successful, she is less liked, and as a man becomes more successful, he is more liked, and that starts with those T-shirts."
She blasted managers who unconsciously reflected stereotypes when they judged women's performance by saying "she's great at her job but she's just not as well liked by her peers" or "she's a bit aggressive".
"They say this with no understanding that this is the penalty women face because of gender stereotypes," she said.
"Women still have two jobs in the most developed countries around the world; men have one."
She said that from the moment they left school, the message for women was: "Don't you want to have kids one day?"
Ms Sandberg was appearing at a panel session in Davos where five of the six speakers were women, the opposite of the gender balance at many Davos events.
Only 17 per cent of delegates at the high-powered event were women even though, in an effort to increase their representation, the organisers insisted that the top 100 "strategic partner" companies that attended, and which could bring five delegates, must include one woman.
Many, however, chose to bring only four rather than include a female executive.
The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said her experiences of overcoming prejudice had helped her be a better boss.
"I grew up with brothers, I grew up in a man's world, and you had to elbow your way in," she said. "I listen more; I'm more attentive to those in the back of the room that sit in the dark and don't want to talk but have a lot to contribute."
The European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, presented data showing that women made up 15.8 per cent of company boards in Europe, up from 13.7 per cent a year ago.
She said companies had been forced to become more diverse by the European Commission when it declared it would legislate to improve the situation.
"Since the moment I threatened that if there was no progress then I would put up legislation, there has been real progress," she said. "Sometimes it needs a little push."
Ms Reding said it was crucial for workers to be provided with proper childcare. "This is an issue for men as well as women."
Elsewhere at the forum, the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi,said the optimism surging through the stock exchanges of Europe showed that normality was returning.
But he did not expect the economic recovery to begin until the second half of this year.
With the eurozone still in recession and unemployment at record levels, he insisted that the pain was "emphatically" worth it, and that the economy still had many strengths.
"The euro area economy in its entirety has performed better than anywhere in the past 15 years," he said.