After mostly avoiding interviews for several weeks before the high-profile launch of her controversial book, “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg broke her silence Sunday night with a pre-taped chat on the CBS program “60 Minutes.” And while the interview was largely friendly, Sandberg recounted some revealing anecdotes that she’s also shared in her book and recent speeches on the subject of women and their careers.
Arguing that the women’s revolution has “stalled” — she cites statistics that show women’s gains in top corporate jobs have slowed — the Facebook chief operating officer contends that women must push themselves forward to advance their own interests, in spite of social conditioning to do the opposite.
To illustrate her point that women are often reluctant to negotiate for higher salaries, for example, Sandberg and her husband described their different reactions when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recruited Sandberg from a senior post at Google to run the business operations at Facebook. Sandberg says she was ready to take Zuckerberg’s first offer, but her husband, Dave Goldberg, and her brother-in-law convinced her to ask for a better financial package. (Ultimately, that package included enough shares in Facebook stock to make her a billionaire, at least on paper, before the company’s share price declined.)
“Not because the money mattered so much, but it was the principle,” said Goldberg, a former Yahoo executive who’s now CEO of the startup SurveyMonkey. “I wanted Mark to really feel he stretched to get Sheryl because she was worth it.”
Sandberg also talks about her first six-month performance review from Zuckerberg. By her account, Zuckerberg told her, “Your biggest problem is you worry way too much about everyone liking you all the time.” According to Sandberg, her then-24-year-old boss told her that she would never make an impact unless she said something that at least someone disagreed with. “It’s going to hold you back,” she says he warned her.
Those are just two of several instances in which Sandberg has acknowledged her own insecurities. At the same time, she says she was called “bossy” as a child and says that’s partly why she wants to change the way society views women who assert themselves.
“This is deeply personal for me,” Sandberg told the CBS correspondent Norah O’Donnell. “I want every little girl who someone says they’re bossy to be told instead, ‘You have leadership skills.’ “
“Because you were told you were bossy?” asks O’Donnell.
“Because I was told that,” Sandberg says. “And because every woman I know who was in a leadership position was told that.”
It may be noted that Sandberg only smiled modestly during the interview when O’Donnell remarked on her wealth and success and called her, at one point, “one of the most powerful women in the world.”
And while saying it bothers her that there’s never been a woman president of the United States, Sandberg also brushed off O’Donnell’s question about whether she might run herself.
“I feel like I’m doing all the leaning in that I can do right now,” she said.
CBS has posted the interview and some additional video clips here, on the “60 Minutes” website. Sandberg’s foundation, LeanIn.Org, has anecdotes and online tutorials on its website. And here’s the Merc’s article on her book and the Lean In campaign.
(Photo credit: “60 Minutes” – CBS)