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Sheryl Sandberg
COO of Facebook, Author, Activist

Sheryl Sandberg is an American technology executive, activist, and author. She is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. In June 2012, she was elected to the board of directors by the existing board membersbecoming the first woman to serve on Facebook's board. Before she joined Facebook as its COO, Sandberg was Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and was involved in launching Google's philanthropic arm Google.org. Before Google, Sandberg served as chief of staff for the United States Secretary of the Treasury.

 

In 2012 she was named in the Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine. As of June 2015, Sandberg is reported to be worth over US$1 billion, due to her stock holdings in Facebook and other companies.

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* Curated from harvard business review, mckinsey quarterly, and inc.
I think the biggest challenge you’re going to have, and these ideas are going to have, is simply a sense that people have been fighting this battle for decades. and your book points out how small the progress has been.
Yeah. but I think now’s is our time. I really believe this. that now is the time. that the external barriers, which are still there, are just so much lower than they were. and, you know, my mother was told by her parents, and her school, and her professors, and everyone, that she could be a nurse or a teacher. that’s what they told her. you have two choices. you can be a nurse or a teacher. that is not what we are. my childhood was the childhood of firsts. the first woman in space, the first speaker of the house just happened. this is within our grasp. I really believe this is within our grasps. and hbs shows that these cultural shifts can happen. and I think if we start acknowledging what the real issues are, we can solve them. and it’s not that hard if we’re committed to doing it.
You’re a harvard business school grad. this is hbs’s 50th anniversary of accepting women there. what should hbs be doing differently? what should institutions like that be doing, before you get to the professional level?
Hbs is an example in my book of one of the institutions that’s actually done the best job. and I think frances frei and youngme moon are models that everyone should be following. a couple years ago, not very recently– and dean nitin, I think, is a hero of this– they came in and made it explicit that they wanted, forever at hbs– american men have outperformed international students and women. and they came in and said, we’re going to broaden our definition of leadership. they gave a broader definition of leadership. holding people responsible, not just for their own behavior, but for making other people better. and they worked on the soft stuff. they held everyone accountable, and then they worked on some curriculum things. but they were actually pretty small. they had a field study, and if you look, two years they closed the educational achievement gap at harvard. in two years. and achievement gap that was there when I was there. and what’s so exciting is satisfaction of the students went up, including the american men. and that, I think, is such an important example. so I think they had started talking about gender. they walked around and told people, women and international students, there’s an academic gap between our male american students and women international students. they had started talking about why. they broadened the definition of leadership. I mean, this is kind of, not that hard stuff to do. but they made it explicit. and they did it, in two years. and harvard business school is a very established institution. I think it’s such a great example for what other organizations can do. but we have to talk about gender to do it. this will not happen without talking about gender.
So it’s not too late to join the struggle.
Absolutely. and it’s not too late for our [inaudible]. and we can keep increasing, but with no progress at those 15, and 10 years, the numbers are going to have to be very, very dramatically for that to happen. and I think we need to commit oursel...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I think i’m right in quoting you as having said at one point, that at your age– and you’re not even remotely old, 43, ok– that it’s sort of too late for your generation. and I didn’t quite understand that.
I don’t believe that my generation will achieve 50% of the top jobs in any industry. but I hope to still be alive when we get to 50% of congress, or we get to 50% of the ceo jobs. but I don’t believe it will be my peers that do that. I would love ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So I feel like, anecdotally, men are getting better in that respect. is there any data that says that?
Oh, they’re getting way better. they’re still doing much, much, much less than half. so a married couple, both of them work full-time, the woman will do 30% more child care and 40% more housework than a man. so much better, than our husband’s gene...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
At a certain level, I read your book and thought, wow, finding a great husband, I don’t know how many potentials there are out there, is as good a determinant as any, for sort of–
It’s the most important career decision a woman makes. single. the single most important career decision a woman makes is, if they’re going to have a life partner, and if that partner is going to support her career. and support that career does no...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You talk a lot like-ability. and I want to ask a couple questions about that. first, and maybe data bears this out, that there’s this assumption that we, that society, that people generally don’t like female leaders. why is that the default? I mean, why don’t we love female leaders?
So this is really important, I think, the heart. and this is what I did not understand when I was in business school. and I didn’t understand until a few years ago. even though I kind of knew it, I felt it intuitively, but I didn’t understand the ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You obviously had a fabulous mentor in larry summers. I don’t think i’ve ever had a mentor. to what extent did that help you? and then I want to ask, how does somebody find a mentor like that?
I think it helped tremendously. i’ve had a lot of mentors over the course of my career. larry being one of the absolutely most important. and certainly the first. but you know, larry offered to be my thesis adviser in college. and then he took me ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Can you talk about some concrete things that, whether it’s Facebook or other companies are doing that really are getting [inaudible]?
Whole bunch of things. organizations holding people responsible for results, not appearance of trying to get results. there is a culture of face time. it’s so prevalent, that people want to hold themselves responsible for results.we had an employe...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
There are people who will read this book and will say, ok, there’s some interesting ideas here, but is sheryl sandberg a reasonable role model? and it’s both criticism and praise. she’s top of her class at harvard, and she has a great husband, and a great job, and she doesn’t understand the struggles that other women are facing every day. and at that point there’s a disconnect.
I’m incredibly fortunate. and i’ve had incredible opportunities, and mentors, and support. and i’m really grateful for all of that. a lot of this book is about, and a lot of the struggles, are the same struggles women face. right? the struggle to ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
One of the phrases you use in the book is you talk about reigniting the revolution. so talk a little bit about that. how would that revolution unfold?
So I think what’s happened is that women are making more and more progress at every level, except the leadership level. we’ve got 50% of the college degrees 30 years ago. we are getting more and more college degrees every year, more and more gradu...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So you got a lot of attention for telling people that you go home at 5:30. shouldn’t we all go home at 5:30? and shouldn’t we all go home at 5:30 and shut off?
We should all find ways to be able to do the things we want to do in our lives. and I not, in any of this, the book, or going home at 5:30, i’m not trying to be prescriptive and say, here’s what I do and everyone should do what I do.
In your book you anticipated some of the criticisms. well, I think, you’ve mentioned some of the criticisms you faced in the past, and anticipated some of them, then you rounded them. so anne-marie slaughter, in her piece, in atlantic, she said, in a sense, in one way, the arguments that you’re making, are essentially, on one level, blaming women. you know, what is wrong with you? her argument that that’s sort of misplaced. that it’s asking too much of women, and it’s putting in the blame where it doesn’t belong. how do you respond to that argument?
I think there are all kinds of hurdles women face. women face huge numbers of institutional barriers, discrimination, assumptions about them, lack of flexibility, all of the things she talked about. which are absolutely real. we also face barriers...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So is the idea then that men and women become more like each other? or that we really celebrate the differences? you know, not try to minimize them, but identify them and kind of celebrate them?
I think we want to understand the differences and celebrate them. I think we want to break down the stereotypical limitations to our choices. see I don’t think we have a real choice. when people say the work choice, what they mean is women can cho...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You know, I often try to interview female executives, ceos, and I say, i’d like to talk to you about the experience of being a female business leader in what is still essentially a boy’s club. and usually the response I get, and you talk about in the book, is people say, look I don’t view myself as a female. so yeah, i’m just a ceo. and I wonder– I understand that for public consumption people have to say that, but surely there’s a difference? and I guess what can be learned from female experience in roles like this?
Yeah, I mean, all of us do that. I did that. had you asked me that question, I don’t know, five years ago, I would have said the same thing. and there’s a reason we don’t talk about gender. no one talks about gender in the workplace. women don’t t...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I guess he could have been. ask him. but he still here, and he’s really happy. and he’s a star. and when you ask him why he’s here, he’ll say, I love Facebook’s mission. I love what you’re doing. and I love that you care about my life, too. and th...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
But back to the question of Facebook, I mean, so if people pay attention to your message you will have helped every company. you will have helped your competitors as well as Facebook. so again, how do you know when it’s too much? I mean, how do you wall off what is becoming a bigger, and bigger, and bigger role for yourself?
I still spend a very small fraction of time on this, compared to the time I spent on Facebook. but I do you think that it’s a message that helps Facebook. ever since i’ve been more public on women we have a great track record at getting amazing wo...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So I want to come back to a bunch that– yeah, you’re doing a big publicity roll-out, oprah, time magazine, other things. you’ve become, effectively, a major spokesperson for some of these topics. how do you fit that into your world? how does that fit our conflict with what you’re doing at Facebook?
So I think it’s really complimentary to my work at Facebook if I want us to build the best products. and one of the ways we do that is we have to be able to attract and retain the very best people. and that means attracting and retaining men and w...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So who is the book for? and what is the ultimate takeaway you would like? or the primary takeaway you would like from it?
I think the book is for any woman who wants advice on how to sit at any table she wants to sit at. and any man who wants to be part of creating a more equal world, both at home and in the workforce. you know, we know that institutions that can use...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Your aspiration is to make “leaning in” a global trend for women. in fact, you are seeding a nonprofit called lean in. what are your hopes for that?
I am hoping that my book is just the start of the conversation. I really want to help build a global community where we’re giving women not just the desire to lead but the support and the tools they need to do it. so the lean in community is doing...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What about after women have a family?
No one can have it all. that language is the worst thing that’s happened to the women’s movement. you know, no one even bothers to apply it to men. it’s really pressure on women. I think what happens to women is we compare ourselves at home to the...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Women in their 20s seem worried: “i’m working too hard to find a partner.” “i can’t have a baby and do this.” “i can’t do all these things.”
Women start worrying about balance at a really young age. we were raised in my generation with “you can do anything.” we didn’t have the example of trying to do both careers and families and it not working. we didn’t worry about this at all. I nev...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Why is building communities of women so important to you?
The tension between work-at-home moms and work-in-the-office moms is real. all of us feel it. that needs to change. I look at what the women in my community who are working in their homes are doing not just for their children but for mine. and thi...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How did you step into that?
I sit here today not having a comfortable relationship with power, ambition, or leadership. for men, leadership, power, and ambition are unambiguously good words. as men get more successful and lead more, they’re better liked. for women, those thi...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
When did the shift happen for you?
I left mckinsey; I went into the government for four years. when I then left treasury, it took me almost a full year to get a job. by the time I got my job at Google, I was so happy to have employment that I was no longer afraid, I just wanted to ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I really want to do mission-based work. I believed in the Google mission. I believe strongly in what Facebook’s doing. that’s why I get up and go to work every day. but probably for the first time in my life around these issues for women in leader...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
When were you first self-aware that you really were a leader?
I don’t easily identify as a leader. looking back on my childhood, I thought of myself as a little bossy. I think as a boy, I would have thought I was a leader. we need to change that if we want more women in leadership.
The biggest challenge you face in all of this may be the sense that we’ve been fighting the same battles for decades.
Yes. but I think now is our time. my mother was told by everyone that she had two choices: she could be a nurse or a teacher. the external barriers now are just so much lower. if we start acknowledging what the real issues are, we can solve them. ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Do you feel you have succeeded despite being a woman or because you’re a woman?
That’s a hard question to answer. i’ve had a lot of luck, a lot of sponsors, a lot of mentors. i’ve worked hard. but the success versus likability thing has been difficult. when I had my first performance review with [Facebook ceo] mark zuckerberg...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I assume men are getting better at that.
They’re getting way better. but they are still doing far less than half the child care and housework. next time you go to a party, watch what happens when a baby starts crying. watch the parents and see who gets up. women still largely have two jo...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Ultimately, it seems that the most critical thing for an ambitious woman is a supportive partner.
It’s the single most important career decision a woman makes: is she going to have a life partner, and is that partner going to support her career? and by “support,” I mean getting up in the middle of the night half the time to change diapers.
Is there any part of you that wonders whether there are biological imperatives that justify traditional gender roles?
Well, as gloria steinem says, this is about consciousness, not biology. we evolve. for example, humans are biologically programmed to be obese. our bodies were made to store fat and sugar so that we could survive when the hunting season was over. ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
The media also tend to talk an awful lot about how female executives dress.
I’m lucky i’m not in an industry where that matters. silicon valley is awesome; I wear jeans to work almost every day. it’s a great place for women, because it really is all about what you build and what you do.
Do you feel that the way women are portrayed on tv and in the movies contributes to an antifeminist backlash?
I think we need to widen perceptions, and i’m not just talking about body-image issues. the media rarely depict working women with children as happy and adjusted and comfortable with themselves. they always sound harried. tina fey remembers going ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You’ve talked openly about having cried in the workplace. should women and men feel free to embrace the full range of emotions at work?
Crying at work is not a best practice. i’m not recommending that if you want to get to the top, you should break out the tissues. but we’re human, and it’s important to broaden the kinds of behaviors that are acceptable at work.
You got a lot of attention for saying you go home at 5:30 to spend time with your kids. shouldn’t we all go home at 5:30 and detach from work?
We should all find ways to do the things we want to do in our lives. i’m not trying to be prescriptive. it’s hard to admit that you go home at 5:30, no matter where you are in your career. but I did it on purpose to say to people, “look, I can be ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
With this book, as with speeches such as your 2010 ted talk on gender, you’ve become a major spokesperson on this topic. how does that fit with what you do at Facebook?
It’s all complementary. Facebook’s mission is to allow people to express themselves and connect to the individuals and causes they care about. I care tremendously about Facebook’s being the very best place it can be. and since i’ve become more pub...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Why aren’t more women finding strong mentors and sponsors?
We need to explicitly encourage men to sponsor women. we keep telling women how important these connections are, so women walk up to virtual strangers and say, “will you be my mentor?” that’s not how it works. you have to find ways to build a rela...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I think it’s fair to ask whether sheryl sandberg is a realistic role model. you were top of your class at harvard, you had a great mentor from early on in larry summers, you have a supportive husband who has a great job with flexibility. your critics contend that you don’t understand the struggles most women face in the workplace.
I don’t hold myself up as a role model. i’m incredibly fortunate, and I have had amazing opportunities and mentors and support. but the struggles I write about are the ones all women face: the struggle to believe in yourself, to not feel guilty, t...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You talk a lot about the “likability” gap. why do female leaders score so poorly in that area?
The data show that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. which means that as women get more successful, they are liked less—both by men and by other women. that’s because we want people to co...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
The work-life balance can be daunting. i’ve never met a working mother who feels happy about how she’s doing either as a professional or as a mother. what’s your advice to women who feel so conflicted?
We have to be realistic about our choices. when we measure ourselves against people at work who don’t have other responsibilities, we feel we fall short. and when we measure ourselves against women who are with their children all day, we feel the ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Why do so many highly educated women leave the workforce?
There are many reasons women leave—from lack of flexibility and discrimination to the desire to pursue other goals. the fact that so many women from top schools drop out of the workforce is one of the most important causes of the leadership gap. i...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I’ve asked female ceos to talk about the experience of functioning in what is still essentially a boys’ club, but they inevitably decline, saying, “i view myself as a ceo, not as a ‘female ceo.’” surely there’s a difference worth exploring.
Had you asked me that question five years ago, I would have said the same thing. no one talks about gender in the workplace, because if you say the words “i am a woman,” the other person is likely to hear “i want special treatment” or “i’m going t...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Is the ultimate goal for men and women to become more like each other, or to identify and celebrate the differences?
I think we want to understand the differences and celebrate them. but we need to break down limitations imposed by stereotypes. we don’t really encourage women to be leaders. we call our daughters—but not our sons—bossy. we overestimate our sons’ ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
We’re talking a lot about what women do wrong. what do female leaders do well that men should emulate?
I don’t believe there are stereotypical forms of male and female leadership. but I think there are things we’re encouraged to do as women that can be good for all leaders. women are often very good listeners. they are often good consensus builders...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Say more about how women hold themselves back.
One important way, as I write in the book, is that they “leave before they leave.” that is, they take themselves out of the running for career advancement because they want to have a family. but in some cases they’re making these decisions years i...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Some have criticized you for essentially blaming women for not being “better,” even though many of the challenges they confront are institutional. how do you respond?
Women face huge institutional barriers. but we also face barriers that exist within ourselves, sometimes as the result of our socialization. for most of my professional life, no one ever talked to me about the ways I held myself back. i’m trying t...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What’s the cost to society when women don’t pursue their ambitions fully?
Warren buffett has said, quite graciously and famously, that one of the reasons for his success is that he had to compete with only half the population. the more people who get in the race, the faster the running times will be.
You talk in the book about reigniting a revolution. how would you like to see that happen?
Women are making progress at every level except as leaders. we started accounting for 50% of college degrees 30 years ago, but progress at the top has stalled. for the past decade women in corporate america have held only about 14% of c-suite jobs...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What’s the big idea in lean in?
The book is for any woman who wants advice on how to sit at any table she wants to sit at, and for any man who wants to be part of creating a more equal world. if we could get to a place of true equality, where what we do in life is determined not...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free