Look for Sheryl Sandberg to assume a much higher profile in the coming weeks, as the Facebook chief operating officer gears up to promote her new book, “Lean In,” and her ideas about how women can advance in the workplace.
Some of those ideas have already drawn controversy, as outlined Friday in a lengthy New York Times article by reporter Jodi Kantor. (Kantor is perhaps best known as author of the 2012 book, “The Obamas” about the President and First Lady.)
Sandberg, a former top executive at Google, is known for championing the advancement of women in business, but she’s also been criticized by those who say she’s too quick to fault women for not pushing themselves forward. Kantor cites Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, a consultant on gender issues, as writing that Sandberg “does what too many successful women before her have done: blaming other women for not trying hard enough.”
Noting that Sandberg has a Harvard education and stock riches from working at both Google and Facebook, Kantor also raises the question of whether “more earthbound women, struggling with cash flow and childcare” will embrace Sandberg’s advice.
Sandberg isn’t giving interviews now, but there’s no doubt we’ll hear more from her in the weeks before and after her March 11 book launch, which will include a campaign to encourage women to form “Lean In Circles” – support groups described by the Times as “half businesss school and half book club.”
While Sandberg is reportedly planning to do her first book interview on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” she’s also featured in a PBS documentary that airs Tuesday. In a clip from that documentary, entitled “Makers: Women Who Make America,” Sandberg admits to having her own insecurities and says she once passed up a promotion at Google because she wanted to have a second child and she wasn’t sure if she could handle a pregnancy and the new job.
“My answer is lean into your career. When you need the balance, think about it then,” Sandberg says. “But don’t make sacrifices for children you don’t even have yet. Because that almost guarantees that you won’t have a job worth staying for once you get to that place.”
Sandberg certainly doesn’t come across as a shy person in public, no more than any other top executive of a multi-billion-dollar tech company that likes to think it’s changing the world. But these days she generally lets Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg serve as the company’s most prominent spokesman.
The Times article, however, raises the possibility that Sandberg, a former chief of staff to U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, may at some point pursue a more public career in government or politics.
(Mercury News photo by Gary Reyes)