Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of the Lean In and Option B Foundations. She is co-author of best-selling books Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
Sheryl Kara Sandberg was born in 1969 in Washington D.C., the daughter of Adele Einhorn, a French language college teacher who left her job and Ph.D. studies to raise her children, and Joel Sandberg, an ophthalmologist. She is the oldest of three children. Her family moved to North Miami Beach, Florida, when she was 2 years old. During her high school years, she excelled in academics and held many leadership positions. She emphasizes her positive childhood experiences at Jewish summer camps and in BBYO.
Sandberg attended Harvard College and graduated in 1991 summa cum laude and phi beta kappa with a bachelor's degree in economics, and she was awarded the John H. Williams Prize for the top graduating student in economics. While at Harvard, she co-founded an organization called Women in Economics and Government. She met then-professor Larry Summers who became her mentor and thesis adviser. Summers recruited her to be his research assistant at the World Bank where she worked on health projects in India. Subsequently, Sandberg earned her MBA with highest distinction from Harvard Business School.
From 1996-2001, Sandberg worked as the Chief of Staff for Larry Summers, who then was the Secretary of Treasury under President Bill Clinton. Sandberg spearheaded efforts to forgive debt in the developing world, particularly during the Asian financial crises.
When the Republicans gained the US Presidency in November 2000, Sandberg left her job. She then moved to Silicon Valley and joined Google, serving as its Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations from 2001-2008. During her time at Google, she grew the ad and sales team from four people to 4,000. She also launched Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm.
Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, met Sandberg at a Christmas party. Zuckerberg had no formal search for a COO, but thought of Sandberg as "a perfect fit" for this role, and hired her away from Google in 2008. Before she joined, Facebook was primarily interested in building a cool site; profits, they assumed, would follow. Within four years, Sandberg turned Facebook into a profitable business through discreet advertising that allowed the company to earn revenue while still attracting users. She oversees the firm's business operations including sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communication.
Sheryl Sandberg also has served on the boards of directors for numerous companies and organizations, including Facebook, Starbucks, The Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, The Center for Global Development, V-Day, the Brookings Institution, and Ad Council. In 2012 Sandberg was named in the “Time 100,”, Time Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has been named on the list of most powerful women by Forbes many times in the past, and currently ranks fourth on the list.
While working at Google, Sandberg noticed the lack of women within companies’ boards of directors. She saw that men were getting ahead in large corporations by aggressively pursuing new assignments and promotions, while women failed to stretch themselves at work and had to be talked into advancement. She also noticed that the spouses of these women often would not evenly split the responsibilities of married life. In 2013, she co-authored Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead with Nell Scovell, a book for professional women to help them achieve their career goals and for men who want to contribute to a more equitable society. The book argues that barriers are still preventing women from taking leadership roles in the workplace, barriers such as discrimination, blatant and subtle sexism, and sexual harassment. But Sandberg claims there are also barriers that women create for themselves through internalizing systematic discrimination and societal gender roles, and that women need to “lean in” to positions of leadership in order for change to occur. The book has sold more than 1 million copies and had a profound effect on recruitment and retention of women engineers and executives within Facebook. Lean In inspired Sandberg to establish a non-profit foundation, Leanin.Org, a global community group to support women striving to achieve their ambitions.
In her personal life, Sandberg married at age of 24, and divorced a year later. In 2004, she married Dave Goldberg, a Yahoo! executive who later became the CEO of SurveyMonkey; the couple have a son and a daughter together. Sandberg has written on Facebook about her husband's supportive role in her life and career: "I wrote in Lean In that the most important decision a woman makes is if she has a life partner and who that life partner will be. The best decision I ever made was to marry Dave."
On May 1, 2015, Goldberg died suddenly at the age of 47 while on a family vacation in Mexico. The cause of his death was head trauma after a cardiac arrhythmia while on a treadmill. With remarkable will and humility, Sandberg turned herself into a poster woman for living through grief. On the last day of the period of shloshim (30 days of grieving in Jewish tradition) for her husband, Sandberg posted to Facebook to share her pain: "Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn't sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way – and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit. . .Things will never be the same – but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived." She expanded her heartache into a book co-authored with Wharton professor and psychologist Adam Grant called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, and founded a nonprofit, Option B. The book offers practical tips for dealing with grief and creating resilience in the family and community, and has sold 2.75 million copies.
In her book, Sheryl Sandberg speaks of the role that Jewish rituals played in helping her through the mourning process. She found the period of shiva incredibly comforting, noting that her house was filled with people that she loved. “Jewish ritual creates a calendric path to process grief and gradually re-enter the world,” she writes. Sandberg also appreciated saying Kaddish within a minyan, because it meant that she never was mourning completely alone. She also questioned whether virtual communities can really replace personal ones during times of grief. While the stirring story from a stranger online is nice, the home-cooked meal delivered to someone sitting shiva actually nurtures.
Through her Facebook stock holdings, Sheryl Sandberg has become one of the world’s youngest female billionaires. She has joined The Giving Pledge, a charity initiative launched by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates in which the world’s wealthiest people pledge at least half their fortunes to charity. In 2016, Sandberg combined her Lean In and Option B Foundations under the umbrella of the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Foundation and funded it with $100 million.
Recently, Sandberg has worried about a backlash from the #metoo movement, fearing that companies won’t hire or promote women for fear of allegations of sexual misconduct. “Actually, this is why you should,” Sandberg says, claiming that this is the only long-term solution to sexual harassment, which is all about power. “Doing right by women in the workplace does not just mean treating them with respect. It means making access equal. Whether that means you take all the employees who report directly to you out to dinner or none of them, the key is to give men and women equal opportunities to succeed.”
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