Confidence Woman

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

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Peter Bohler for TIME

Strategy meeting Sandberg with team members

How She Does It

Among the myths that circle around Sandberg is that she leaves the office at 5:30 p.m. Actually, that is true. But after putting in some time with her family, she returns to work with a vengeance. She’s one of those work-hard, play-hardly-ever types. She usually goes to parties only to work the room or if she’s holding a gathering of women at her home. She and her husband Dave Goldberg try never to schedule dinners on the same night. If that does happen, she often calls on her sister. “She lives a mile away, and the answer is always yes,” Sandberg says.

On their first outing, years before they started dating, Sandberg fell asleep on Goldberg’s shoulder during a movie. “I was smitten, but I found out later she does this to everyone,” he says. Her favorite film is 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption. The last time she picked a movie for a group of friends, she chose Fame. As punishment, the group made her sit through the whole film. And not sleep.

In many ways her domestic life is very traditional. The family plays a lot of games; Zuckerberg recently taught them the Settlers of Catan. Her kids already get their own breakfasts and make their own school lunches (with help). Sandberg says studies that show working moms of today are as engaged with their kids as traditional moms of yore “make me feel so good, so much better.” She declines to answer questions about her domestic help, saying it’s not a question you would ask a man, then declines my offer to ask Goldberg the same question.

Chapter 8 of Lean In claims that one of the most important career choices a woman makes is whom to marry. She and Goldberg, who’s as laid-back and genial as Sandberg is intense and energetic, dated after several years of friendship, during which time Sandberg was briefly married. Four years ago Goldberg left a big job at Yahoo so the family could be together in Northern California. He took over SurveyMonkey, which at the time had 14 employees. “That was hard,” he says. “But what Sheryl has been supergreat about is that there may be a time when we’re going to move someplace for my career.”

(MORE: Readers Respond: How to Get Ahead at Work)

The job change hasn’t held Goldberg back. SurveyMonkey now has a staff of 200 and 14 million users, and he just completed a recapitalization of the company that values it at $1.35 billion.

Sandberg urges women to negotiate shared household duties with their spouses early and often. “We have areas of responsibility. I do travel. I do anything electronic, computers, cars,” says Goldberg. “I do photos and videos. We share the child care 50-50. Although it’s not like we keep score.” And he does the finances. Since Facebook went public, his wife has cashed out about $90 million worth of shares, according to a schedule that was set before the IPO, and she still has almost 18 million shares left. But she demurs when asked how much she’s worth, claiming that that’s Goldberg’s area. “He manages our money,” she says. “I have essentially no interest.”

There is always chatter, especially among Californians, that Sandberg, who’s a big Democratic fundraiser, will return to the public sector. She has the contacts and skill set. “I really loved being in the government,” Sandberg says. “I won’t rule out that I would ever want to go in again, but not run for office. But, not now. It’s not the right time for my family.” According to her father Joel, public policy was always her first love, but he’s not sure she isn’t there already. “Turns out that she probably has a better platform for doing it this way,” he says.

Sandberg doesn’t act as if she wants to leave her current job, even though it’s almost impossible for her to become CEO. “Ironically, having written a book about women and leadership, having, like, the top leadership role is not the most important thing to me,” she says. “I could have done that on the way out of Google. I had those offers.”

It may be that solving the problem of fade-out in women’s potential is enough of a mission for Sandberg, at least for now. It has proved to be a significant challenge for many of the corporations and governments that have tried to address it. But it’s possible that in amassing circles of women and giving them simple empowering tools, she’s putting the infrastructure and players in place for a much more ambitious trophy than a seat in the corporate boardroom. Getting women to the highest echelons of business might be her idea of getting them to the starting line. After the women get the power, well, then she can really let loose.

MORE: TIME’s Complete Coverage on Sheryl Sandberg

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Howard packer


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!


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!


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.


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!


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


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


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


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.