Leaning In With Sheryl Sandberg

Editor's Notebook

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By Jane Eisner

Published March 06, 2013, issue of March 15, 2013.
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Sandberg grew up in the Jewish community, in Florida, the daughter of a physician father and a stay-at-home mother who channeled her energy and intellect into the movement to free Soviet Jews and other human rights concerns.

Born in 1969 (can she really be that young?), Sandberg worked for Larry Summers at the World Bank in her first job after graduating from Harvard, worked for the famed McKinsey consulting firm in her first job after Harvard Business School, logged in four years as Summer’s chief of staff when he ran the Treasury Department, and then took a leap of faith and moved to Silicon Valley, where soon enough she went to work for a little-known tech company. Named Google.

And then she went to another tech company that was past childhood and just entering adolescence, and needed an “old hand” at the helm. Facebook.

So, it’s true that Sandberg has had a charmed career, and she admits as much in her breezy book (written with Nell Scovell.) But as she’d be quick to remind us, women tend to feel “lucky” if they’ve achieved professional success. Men tend to simply think they deserve it.

She recounts a question-and-answer session with students at her business school alma mater in 2011: “The men were focusing on how to manage a business and the women were focusing on how to manage a career. The men wanted answers and the women wanted permission and help.”

This is just one of the many ways that Sandberg persuasively documents how we women hold ourselves back. That is not the only reason for the abysmal statistics that are laced through this book, detailing the persistent gender gap in leadership in the public and private sector, proof perfect that the women’s movement has stalled.

She does reference the institutional barriers to full equality — lack of affordable childcare, inflexible workplaces, scarce paid family leave, just to name a few — though does not give them anywhere the attention they deserve.

But Sandberg’s real contribution, and the source of much controversy, is her argument that women share some of the responsibility for this situation. For our situation.


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