Women in leadership positions are a rarity in the technology sector. They held only 15% of senior management posts at 150 leading Silicon Valley companies as of 2021. In an industry still far from meeting its goals for diversity, Meta Platforms, Inc. (META) board member Sheryl Sandberg has long stood out as a trailblazer who has beaten the odds.
- Sheryl Sandberg is one of Silicon Valley's most successful executives after working in key posts at Apple Inc (AAPL), Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) when it was still just Google, Yahoo!, and Meta (formerly Facebook).
- In addition to managing tech companies, Sandberg has authored popular management books urging women to assert leadership in business.
- As of June 2, 2022, Sandberg had an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion.
- Before joining Meta in 2008, Sandberg was the vice president of global online sales and operations at Google.
- Sandberg was the first woman to serve on Meta's board of directors, a role she is expected to retain after leaving her post as chief operating officer in the fall of 2022.
Early Life and Education
Sandberg was born in Washington, D.C., the eldest of three children of Joel Sandberg, an ophthalmologist, and Adele Sandberg. When she was 2, the family moved to North Miami Beach, Florida.
As a child, Sandberg viewed her mother and grandmother as role models who balanced family with work and education. She was a top student at North Miami Beach Senior High School before entering Harvard University to pursue her undergraduate degree.
Sandberg's path to technology industry leadership was unusual. She was unexceptional at math in high school and completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard without access to the Internet or a cellphone. Her first job after Harvard was at the World Bank, where she worked as a research assistant for chief economist Larry Summers 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 served as deputy secretary in the Clinton administration. When Summers became Treasury secretary, Sandberg remained his top aide.
In 2001, Sandberg moved to California for a job as vice president of global online sales and operations at Google. Her responsibilities at the young but growing search engine company included advertising sales and products including Google Books. She remained at Google until 2008, earning a reputation as an accomplished business leader.
In 2008, Sandberg joined Facebook as COO. She has managed the company's business operations with a special focus on global expansion. Her responsibilities also included marketing, sales, business development, and human resources.
In June 2022, Sandberg announced she would leave the chief operating officer post at Meta in the fall to focus on her foundation's philanthropy.
Honors and Awards
In 2012, Sandberg became the first woman to join Facebook's board of directors. As a part of her compensation as COO, Sandberg received an equity stake that made her a billionaire after the company's 2012 initial public offering (IPO). In 2021, she ranked 36th on the Forbes list of the most powerful women, 15th on the magazine's list of America's richest self-made women, and 12th on Fortune's list of most powerful women.
Sandberg wrote Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, a 2013 book featuring her personal stories, insights on gender differences and inequities, and advice to help women achieve their goals. Lean In was an overnight success, capturing attention worldwide and reaching The New York Times and Amazon.com bestseller lists.
Lean In inspired Lean In Circles, groups of 8 to 10 women meeting to network, discuss struggles, build skills, and provide personal and professional support. There are now more than 50,000 such groups.
After the sudden death of her husband in 2015, Sandberg challenged herself to develop resilience amid sorrow. In 2017, Sandberg and co-author Adam Grant, a Wharton School of Business psychologist, published Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy to help people push through adversity and recover from grief.
Option B features Sandberg's personal experience and insights, stories about other people who have overcome challenges, and strategies backed by empirical evidence to promote resiliency in the home and workplace. The book covers many topics, such as grief and loss, abuse, divorce, and incarceration.
In addition to her books, Sandberg has become known for widely shared quotes on business leadership. Here are some of her most notable sayings:
"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."
Where Does Sheryl Sandberg Live?
Sandberg lives in Menlo Park, California.
What Inspired Sheryl Sandberg to Write Option B?
Sandberg and Wharton School of Business professor and psychologist Adam Grant wrote Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy in response to the challenges she faced and the coping mechanisms she employed after the unexpected death of her husband. The book features life-altering experiences, strategies for helping people in crisis, and tips on overcoming adversity.
Why Does Sandberg Say We Have Too Few Female Leaders?
According to Sandberg, women tend to underestimate their abilities and often fail to assert themselves or advocate for their best interests in the workplace. She has argued that reluctance is shaped by societal bias against assertive women. Studies show that "success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women," Sandberg has said in a TED talk.
The Bottom Line
Sandberg is a self-made billionaire and one of the world's most influential business executives. As a pioneering technology executive, Meta's first female board member, philanthropist, and accomplished author, Sandberg continues to promote equity and diversity in business leadership.