Confidence Woman

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is on a mission to change the balance of power. Why she just might pull it off

  • Share
  • Read Later
Peter Bohler for TIME

Strategy meeting Sandberg with LeanIn.org team members

Success vs. Popularity

Sandberg learned one of the key lessons in her book during her time in business school (Harvard, again), and not in a good way. After her first year, she won a fellowship. The guys who won all talked about it. But Sandberg sensed it was better to keep quiet. “Female accomplishments,” she writes, “come at a cost.” And that cost is people declining to click on the Like button.

Sandberg often refers to a 2003 experiment that found that students considered a successful entrepreneur in a case study more likable when her name was changed to a man’s. “The data says clearly, clearly, clearly that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women,” says Sandberg. Finding that out “was the aha moment of my life.” It explains, she believes, why women who will negotiate ruthless deals for their clients will not do the same for themselves. It accounts for why women are less eager than men to trumpet their management triumphs or put themselves forward for leadership positions. Because women are supposed to be nurturing and peacemaking, not aggressive. When she clues in managers on the success-and-likability conundrum, “it completely changes the way they review women,” she says.

Awkwardly, it turns out, women don’t particularly like successful women either. Sandberg points to how quickly people criticized her friend Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, who went back to work two weeks after having a child and recently appeared to make Yahoo’s work practices a lot less flexible. “No one knows what happened there,” she says. “I think flexibility is important for women and for men. But there are some jobs that are superflexible and some that aren’t.” Regardless, she believes no man who ordered the same policies would have come under fire the way Mayer has.

(MORE: Judith Warner: Why Sandberg Matters for Real Women)

Sandberg, too, has drawn her share of opprobrium. After Anne-Marie Slaughter, an academic and former State Department honcho, criticized her in a much-talked-about essay on why women can’t have it all, Sandberg sent her an e-mail, which Slaughter talked about to a newspaper. Sandberg, the reigning world champion in finding a positive thing to say about everyone, initially declined to comment on this episode. The two have now made up.

At least one prominent feminist is supportive. “Every group of people that has been systematically told they were supposed to play a limited role internalizes that role,” says Gloria Steinem. “She’s saying we have to both fight against the barriers and get them out of our consciousness.”

Sandberg’s peers are generally supportive but guarded. “The most crucial thing for a woman to have if she’s going to get to the top is a sponsor,” says Ann Lee, author of What the U.S. Can Learn from China and a contemporary of Sandberg’s at Harvard Business School. “I was not terribly surprised at Sheryl’s success, because I knew Larry Summers had taken her under his wing.” In fact, after a short stint at McKinsey in 1996, Sandberg went to work with Summers again, this time at the Treasury Department. When he became the Treasury Secretary, she was his 29-year-old chief of staff. “I was hugely lucky, and that explains most of my success,” says Sandberg, “just like every man.”

Her next move, to a small but energetic company called Google in 2001, took people more by surprise. Wayne Rosing, who now runs an astrophysics nonprofit, was vice president of engineering at the time and one of the people who interviewed Sandberg for the job. “She was such a Google type: smart, articulate, passionate and able to work through a problem she had never encountered before,” he says. What Rosing didn’t notice, however, was her passion for women’s rights: “She was just one of the guys, one of the players.” In fact, it was only after she got very sick while pregnant (the Sandberg women all had nine months of morning sickness) that she got the firm to put in special parking spots for expectant moms.

“I never called myself a feminist or gave speeches on women as late as five years ago,” says Sandberg, whose interest in women’s leadership coincided with her joining Facebook in 2008. Until the week before Lean In came out, she was the only woman on Facebook’s board and had been there less than a year, and she’s still the only woman among its top executives. Since the day she took Facebook public in a much hyped IPO, the stock has yet to rise above its offering price; investors are skittish, and advertisers are skeptical. The company needs a steady presence and a cohesive face as it moves forward. This might explain why Sandberg’s nearly omnipresent Facebook handlers are quick to insist that Lean In is not a company project or a distraction and is definitely not Sandberg’s exit strategy. The only time Zuckerberg looked at one of the two p.r. reps present during our interview was when he was asked how irreplaceable she was. He finally came up with: “She has irreplaceable qualities.”

Other employees are less cautious. “I have not thought about Facebook without Sheryl,” says Cox. “That would suck.” He’d respond, he says, by trying to get as good at writing noncheesy thank-you notes as Sandberg is. “If Sheryl were to leave, a bunch of us would say I need to absorb that and honor that,” he says. These people take their social networking seriously.

(VIDEO: Sheryl Sandberg Leans Forward)

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
151 comments
Howardpaker
Howardpaker


Thanks to dr.marnish@yahoo.com for his wonderful work, My girlfriend left a week before our vacation to be with another man. I was desperate to get her back when I found dr.marnish. I tried 5 other people to do a spell to get her back and nothing worked. I was still alone. Then I found dr.marnish by accident. I don’t know how I found him, I don’t remember. But, when I first saw the good testimonies about his wonderful work and after reading the Testimonies, I decided I had to try and give it one last shot. After my spells, I got a text from my lover. And we started going back and forth by text, she asked to meet the next day. So we did, and that night we ended up sleeping together, and about a few days after we got back together. anyone who needs help, should email dr.marnish. He is the best.
Howard packer

CathyOlsen
CathyOlsen

Love this article, it is spot on. I don't understand the whole "easy for her to say with a supportive husband and loads of money"- how do you think she got that?? By LEANING IN! She didn't accept a substandard husband- and she didn't wimp out of career or family achievements. (If you can say 'achievements' when it comes to family). I think too often the issues that the 70's feminists highlighted  (unequal treatment of women in society) has turned into a stagnation- "poor us, what can we do, look how they treat us!". What do you do about it? You have to speak out for what is fair, not accept unequal treatment (even from yourself), recognise your own internalization of unequal standards, and not accept substandard conditions. Too often I hear women who are married, complain to their friends about their husband's lack of help around the house, or how unfair it is that they give up their working lives in sacrifice for a family. Not fair! They should be doing something about it instead of accepting this unfairness and giving up! (I say 'they', but this is what I did too!). Good on your Sheryl Sandberg, and you know, I hope you do run for office!

bdoppes
bdoppes

and furthermore -  - some men do make it 'on their own' - women need HELP  to 'make it' - either with a responsive support system being in that of a mother, father or sibling - or a very 'cooperative' spouse who does nothing without you and you without him  - to be missing any of these support systems - -  you start to  'improvise' the best way you know how to and when you finally realize that most of your family is gone or just does not give a 'hoot' or is smart enough to acknowledge and help and your husband is a self-obsessed man or self-serving geek of sorts -  - you no longer have the 'luxury' to continue to 'profit' - buy appropriate clothing - have time to go to functions and meetings and trips - leaving children in 'good hands' or spend hours and hours on 'hobbies' like gardening and book writing ~ et al et al ~ none of that happens to any WOMAN without true continuous support and inspiration and that my friends - is the way MOST of the women in today's world live!

RobertF
RobertF

Is it so bad fewer women are CEOs in the business world? Perhaps women simply prefer more interesting, creative jobs in science or the liberal arts.

Jean_Grow
Jean_Grow

Belinda Luscombe got it right, with the kind a detail the teacher in me lusts for. “Sandberg is embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism,” as Luscombe says. Good for her and the rest of us. The fact that Sandberg took “too long” to realize she was a feminist, as Emma Brockes of The Guardian states, is reality. I see the same hesitation to embrace feminism in my students. And it is for exactly the same reason Sandberg took her time, because they think equity already exists. Unfortunately, they are wrong. We need to give everyone who wishes, men and women - including Sandberg, the time it takes to find feminism. 

Contrary to many, I do not think Sandberg blames women or “sells guilt.” Nor does she demonize men. In this way she exemplifies what it means to be a feminist. It is true she never has (and doubtfully ever will) experienced what many women, including myself, have had to struggle through. However, that does not negate truths, including how women sabotage themselves. I see this everyday in my students. Rather, she is giving voice to a long needed debate about the unspoken problems that are crippling women in societies across the world. This does not mean every woman will seek the top. Nor does it mean, nor does she imply, that it is easy or for everyone. But it does mean more of us should find the courage to do so, because in doing so we help all women.

I teach and conduct research about the lack of women in advertising creative. On average there are a dismal 15% of women creating the advertising images that we see across the globe, which explains a lot. Further, my students, as well as those of my colleagues, are in large part women (70-80% depending upon the study). This matters greatly – and not just in advertising creative. 

We need to have this dialogue for the sake of the young women and men I teach as well as for the non-college youth I serve as a volunteer. These young people desire equitable educational and employment opportunities and have a passion to give back. Yet, when all too many of them enter the world of work, especially women, they suffocate – constrained by narrow thinking and outdated rules.

It is time to have this discussion out LOUD. Big and bold. It’s time for each of us to speak our individual truths. It’s time for each of us to listen to the individual truths of others. It’s time to make room for everyone, some leaning in and some leaning out. Thanks for keeping this big, bold dialogue going, Belinda!

LauHiengHiong
LauHiengHiong

In recent decades in many countries, much more women than men graduated from university, particularly in fields like literature, education and social sciences. However, like the general American situation, the academic dominance by women has not correspondingly translated into political or career success in relevant domains. In Asian regions at least, cultural expectations for women are much more prominent, persistent and decisive than the American counterpart.

According to centuries-long traditions, women are supposed to function as a ‘background heroine’, assisting their husbands or children to move forward at whatever level in whatever careers. With very few exceptions, this is a typical mindset of most Asian women, poor or rich, illiterate or professional. Under such circumstances, a typical female professional or academic has comparatively less incentive for a senior administrative position, regardless of numerous superior qualities demonstrated – smart, capable, articulate, confident, and ambitious. Any tradition may change course, but it inevitably takes time.

Lau Hieng-Hiong, Hsinchu, TAIWAN

steven.mgarrison
steven.mgarrison

Thumbs up to Belinda Luscombe. She did a great job with this story.

krazykitty
krazykitty

%s That he's honest, not corrupt. He's good people, basically. %s

WilliamBergmann
WilliamBergmann

My prediction is that within 20 years women will have reached true equality in America. There will be equal pay for equal work, half of the executive positions will be women, and half the Nobel winners will be women. 

Men have had there chance at running things and have done a pretty crummy job of it. Women should at least get an equal chance to screw it up.

 

pamela_aceves
pamela_aceves

%s %s %s Muy recomendable Gaby! Gracias por compartir! :D

livetoskiutah
livetoskiutah

I believe Sheryl Sandberg brings up a very valuable point.  Women are rated with a different measuring stick than men.  Just look at what is happening to Marissa Mayer at Yahoo for her decision to stop the Work at Home policy.  Many say if Melissa was a man there would be no uproar.  It is most important that we treat all people as just that- people.  If they are qualified for the job it should not matter if they are a man or a woman.

In the women's fight for equal rights I think we women need to remember one thing- all women are fighting the same fight.  We need to cooperate with each other and not pit ourselves against each other.  As a leader in the workplace I have seen woman in leadership cut other women down for fear of the competition.  We need to recognize this behavior not only hurts the one woman we climb over but the model of all women as rational thinkers and producers.

downeygirl2
downeygirl2

Sheryl Sandberg has nothing new to contribute to feminism.  It's the same, tired old whine - "why can't a woman be more like a man?"   There are not more women in powerful positions because the skills needed to get them there -  aggression, ego, and the willingness to exploit other's weaknesses and vulnerabilities - are not typically in our tool set, and many of us have no desire to acquire them.  Sheryl Sandberg is an exception, as this article demonstrates.  She uses her "high E.Q." to exploit personal information to gain advantage in a sale.  She cunningly manipulates her employees to garner adulation (the two employees who bragged that they were both the first to introduce her children to a farm).  She didn't advocate for special workplace accommodations for pregnant women until she herself needed them.  I came away from this article with a negative opinion of her, not just as a feminist, but as a person

Feminism will truly evolve when we reject the Sheryl Sanbergs and the patriarchal power structure they try to claw their way into,  and rewrite the rules to better suit a women's world.  A world where cooperation, fairness, generosity and humanity trump ego, ruthlessness and aggression.  It is time that women not be required to adapt to a man's world to get a seat at the table - it's time to shake things up, girl-style.  Sheryl Sandberg is not our role model.

TeriStoddard
TeriStoddard

Sheryl Sandberg has completely missed the point - not everyone is made to be an executive. I think it's great to encourage and empower people to succeed. But NOT just one gender. And NOT in just one way. To some (women and men) success is owning a small at-home business. To some (women and men) success is being employed part-time, or full-time at a small business near their home. To some (women and men) success is being a stay-at-home parent/spouse. I say, "Listen to your heart. If YOU want to be an executive, THEN listen to Sheryl Sandberg."

glamavon
glamavon

Yesterday evening, I read the cover article on Sheryl Sandberg and found it quite interesting.  If you take away all the criticism surrounding Ms. Sandberg such as "sure she can say whatever she wants because she has help and a supportive husband,"  what she is actually saying is that women have put up too many internal roadblocks for too long.  By that I mean, from the time women are little, they've been socialized as wives and nurturers.  In school, girls are told "don't show off how smart you are, you'll make the boys feel bad."  As women in the work place, they are the ones expected to either have it all or give it all up for marriage and family.  Odd, no asks the man to do the same, this is what gender equality at work looks like?  The polarities of having it all or giving it all up looms so large that there seems to be no room for in-between.  The in-between is where we find women like Sheryl Sandberg who have learned or are learning to exist.  There is no one solution rather, that in-between space is flexible that allows for multiple solutions based on the situation.  I personally see nothing wrong with women actively pursuing their career as long as it's fulfilling and sustainable.  I believe what Ms. Sandberg is trying to do is redefine the work/life balance that men and women face everyday.

j.tom.osterman
j.tom.osterman

What is unfortunate is that there was even a need for the Betty Friedens, Gloria Steinems and Sheryl Sandbergs.  This situation that exists today should have been resolved centuries ago or at the very least many years ago.  The problem doesn't rest with women primarily; it rests with men.   

If men over the centuries really understood women and rendered to them the equal footing they deserved, it is likely most of the wars that men have engaged in would never have happened.  While we had in this country, our Dolly Madisons, Martha Washingtons, and Abigail Adams at the beginning, had they had a larger role we would never have had the run up to the Civil War, nor eventually would we have gone to war in Vietnam, or the gulf wars.  And as far as the present day congress, do you think if the House or Senate had equal representation of women that we would have gridlock.  

The best thing that women can do for the men today is advise them to shed their egos, cut out the macho stuff and get real about women's capabilities and their critical thinking. 

LuxuryPRGal
LuxuryPRGal

Don't hate her because she's successful: An interview with %s of %s %sb%seed v%sIME

DoloresMercado
DoloresMercado

I agree with BlackRock... and I am a woman.. not every woman figts to be a CEO maybe women evecuties are happy to the level they have reached...  I  agree that there might be companies/men who dont like sharing power with women..

Swapnadhond
Swapnadhond

I appreciate what Sandberg is trying to do. But a lot of us don't own over $90 million in Facebook stock. We don't make millions of dollars to hire all sorts of help to cook, clean and look after our kids. Although Sheryl has declined to comment on whether she has domestic help, she must know that she is an exception, not the rule. 

At some point all families do the math- is there a greater financial pay off to staying at home vs. going to work? It is not always possible for everyone to leave at 5:30 pm without feeling alienated by co-workers and being passed up for promotions etc. just because we want to tend to the need of our families. A lot of companies have great policies in place, but they are always left to the discretion of the manager to manage the needs of the department. Do you think I should need approval of my manager to take my child to the pediatrician or a recital or a play? Yes, I can delegate it to a nanny and such but would that give you the same satisfaction? Is leaving my child in day care or with a stranger for 10-12 hours a day the best thing for my child? These are all individual decisions. 

For a lot of women, it is completely gratifying to stay home and raise families.  Not everyone needs to go to work at a corporation to feel that they are equal or superior to men. We all have our own place an roles in our families and societies. While it would be great to see more women as law makers and CEO's , Sheryl Sandberg you must remember "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world". 

squintar
squintar

@Jastrow75 merci ! Pas par hasard que ça ressemble à l'Allemand Mensch, sauf que ça a bien plus de sens ;)

CelesteOJ
CelesteOJ

@DTakruri me too my little Didi! I had a paint au chocolat this morning and I thought of you!

Jastrow75
Jastrow75

@squintar je remercie la série The Nanny pour l'acquisition de yiddishismes :)

squintar
squintar

@Jastrow75 \o\/ et moi je ne peux que accuser ma non connaissance des séries pour expliquer mon inculture ;)