Women in executive leadership positions are a rarity in the technology sector. Only 12.4% of executives at Silicon Valley companies were women in 2018. Leading technology companies such as Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), however, indicate that they are committed to increasing the number of women and other minorities among their ranks. In a business climate still reaching to achieve more diversity, Facebook chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg is a trailblazer who has beaten the odds.

Key Takeaways

  • Sheryl Sandberg is one of Silicon Valley's most successful women, famous for executive positions at Apple, Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook.
  • In addition to managing tech companies, Sandberg has also authored popular management books espousing feminist virtues in business.
  • As of 2020, Sandberg is worth nearly $2 billion and ranks highly on Forbe's list of influential women.
Sheryl Sandberg

Alison Czinkota / Investopedia

Sandberg worked at the World Bank and at the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, DC, before moving to Silicon Valley to work for the 3-year-old Google in 2001. She holds an MBA from Harvard and ranks as one of Fortune magazine's "Most Powerful Women" in business. She is an advocate for women in leadership positions and the author of "Lean In," a book written to inspire women to achieve personal and professional growth. She is the mother of two children. She was married to David Goldberg, the former CEO of Survey Monkey, who died in 2015. In 2017, she co-authored the book "Option B," about the grief over her late husband, with friend and psychologist Adam Grant. 

Early Life and Education

Born in Washington, DC, Sheryl Sandberg is the eldest of three children of Joel Sandberg, an ophthalmologist, and Adele Sandberg. The Sandberg family moved to North Miami Beach, Florida, when Sheryl was 2-years-old. As a child, Sandberg had her mother and grandmother as female role models who balanced family with work and education. She was a top student at North Miami Beach Senior High School and graduated with a 4.6 GPA. She was a member of the National Honor Society and an aerobics instructor before she enrolled at Harvard University to pursue her undergraduate degree.

Success Story

Sandberg's path to becoming a technology industry leader was unusual. She was unexceptional at math in high school and completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard without the internet or a cellphone. Her career path to leading tech industry executive began at the World Bank where she worked for chief economist Larry Summers as a research assistant before returning to Harvard to earn her MBA. In her early days at the World Bank, she sometimes supplemented her income by teaching aerobics classes. After Sandberg earned her MBA, she joined Summers as his chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department where he was appointed Deputy Secretary during the Clinton administration. When Summers became Secretary of the Treasury, Sandberg continued to work alongside him until 2001.

In 2001, Sandberg moved to California to become the vice president of global online sales & operations at Google. Sandberg's responsibilities at the young but growing search engine company included advertising sales and various products, including Google Books. She remained at Google until 2008, earning a reputation as a leading executive in the technology industry. In 2008, Sandberg joined Facebook as COO. She manages the company's business operations with a special focus on global expansion. Her responsibilities also include marketing, sales, business development, and human resources.

Net Worth & Current Influence

In 2012, Sandberg became the first female member of Facebook's board of directors. As a part of her compensation, Sandberg received an equity stake in Facebook that made her a billionaire after the company's 2012 initial public offering (IPO). As of Oct. 2020, her net worth was $1.8 billion. In 2020, she ranked 22nd on the Forbes Power Women list and 13th on the Forbes America's Self-Made Women list. 

Most Influential Quotes

"Endless data shows that diverse teams make better decisions. We are building products that people with very diverse backgrounds use, and I think we all want our company makeup to reflect the makeup of the people who use our products. That's not true of any industry really, and we have a long way to go."
"The things that hold women back, hold them back from sitting at the boardroom table and they hold women back from speaking at the PTA meeting."
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
"Done is better than perfect."