Even before Sheryl Sandberg’s manifesto for women came out, she had ignited controversy. Here, the Facebook COO, 43, tries to put out the flames
What’s the idea behind Lean In?
Women are still really far from having our share of leadership roles. I wrote this book to try to give women practical suggestions for what they can do to achieve their goals.
Sit at the table. Don’t hold yourself back from taking a leadership position—lean in to your career and your ambition. Don’t leave before you leave—which means don’t scale back on your work or your ambitions in anticipation of having children. This is about believing that we can do anything, reach any goal we set out to reach for ourselves—both personally and professionally.
Isn’t this easy for you to say? You’ve been criticized for being privileged and elite, and for blaming women—rather than the system—for failing to get ahead.
I don’t hold myself out as a role model and I don’t believe there’s one answer for women, but I do believe that women in all circumstances face the same issues: We don’t get paid as much as men, we tend to have more responsibility at home, we don’t want to raise our voices to get what we deserve.
Still, one critic called you a “PowerPoint Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots.” Are you surprised by the negativity?
[Laughs] I thought long and hard before I spoke out for women. I had some of the same feelings others had: Who are you to give advice? But I was really worried about what I saw in the workforce, as women held themselves back.
You advise women to look for partners at home who are truly 50-50. Is that really how it works in your house?
It’s true for me and Dave [Goldberg, her husband of almost nine years and the CEO of tech firm Survey Monkey, with whom she has two children, ages 5 and 7]. But it didn’t start out that way, and it’s not easy! And it’s not 50-50 at any one moment; it ebbs and flows. Like a lot of women, I feel guilty about a lot of things. I drop my kids at school and see the mothers who are going to be there all day volunteering, and they are going to know more about what my child does than I do. I miss being with my kids and I feel bad about that. Dave drops the kids off at school and he feels fantastic that he dropped the kids off at school!
– ELIZABETH GLEICK
Along with her book, Sandberg (at an earlier job at the World Bank in 1991) has started a nonprofit, leanin.org, to help women share life lessons and get online executive coaching.
Sandberg at home with her husband, whom she calls a “true partner.”
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