Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lists the perils of being the woman boss

New York: As Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg has smashed formidable barriers in Silicon Valley, but has noticed far fewer women rising through the ranks along with her. With her new book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sandberg aims to arm women with the tools they need to keep moving forward in the workforce.

Sandberg, 43, has worked with Facebook as its No 2 since 2008. CEO Mark Zuckerberg lured her away from Google to help run what has since become a social networking powerhouse.

Of all the posters that hang on Facebook's walls — "Move Fast and Break Things," "Done Is Better than Perfect" and "Fail Harder" — Sandberg says her favorite asks "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" Lean In is about pushing past fear. It urges women to shed self-imposed glass ceilings.

"Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face," she writes.

"Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter."

 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lists the perils of being the woman boss

Sheryl Sandberg. AP.

Sandberg argues that some women step back from their jobs, derailing their ambitions early in their careers in anticipation of having a family. The book which was released on Monday has already evoked strong reactions. Some have loved the book, while others have slammed Sandberg’s approach, saying it only considers the needs of upper middle-class working women.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd disparaged Sandberg by calling her a "PowerPoint Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots.” But is the multi-millionaire COO of Facebook with two Harvard degrees too rich, or out of touch with the vagaries of life to offer good advice to the average working woman?

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman doesn’t think so and defended the book on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos". “She’s not talking about the problems of every woman. That’s okay,” said Krugman, while pointing out that the American workplace is still pretty sexist.

Women receive about six in 10 college degrees in America, but they still account for only four percent of CEOs in America's Fortune 500 companies. Sandberg, also a director of the Walt Disney Company, says that number needs to change and encourages women to "lean in" and take action to reach the top of their professions.

Sandberg shines a light on sexism’s obscure nooks. She details the dissimilar cultural messages directed at boys versus girls. Girls are often, encouraged to be “pretty”, Sandberg explains, while smarts and leadership are left to the boys.

“When a girl tries to lead, she is often labeled bossy,” she writes. “Boys are seldom bossy because a boy taking the role of a boss does not surprise or offend.” This small remark will resonate with women who have often been put down with epithets like “Miss Bossy Boots".

“This is deeply personal for me. I want every little girl who someone says they're bossy to be told instead, "You have leadership skills," said Sandberg.

The book points out men apply to jobs when they meet merely 60 percent of the listed requirements, while women wait until they meet 100 percent. Men also negotiate for higher salaries far more often than women. For example, of a graduating class of Carnegie Mellon students, 57 percent of the men initiated negotiations, compared to 7 percent of women.

“I want to be clear: I am not saying that men are too self-confident. That's not the problem. The problem is that women aren't self-confident enough,” says Sandberg.

Sandberg doesn’t shy away from describing her own struggles to take risks at work, to ask for what she wants, and to negotiate.

Sandberg tells women to look for supportive spouses: “Everyone knows marriage is the biggest personal decision you make. But it's the biggest career decision you make.”

Sandberg is married to highly successful tech entrepreneur Dave Goldberg who launched his first company Launch Media at the age of 26, took it public, and then sold it to Yahoo! The couple says they split their parenting responsibilities equally, trying to make sure at least one of them is home in time for dinner with their two young children.

At Harvard, Sandberg’s economics professor Larry Summers handpicked her to follow him to the World Bank and then to become his chief of staff when he was Treasury Secretary. By 2001, Sanderg headed to Silicon Valley where she almost turned down a job offer from Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google which was then a start-up. As Google’s first business unit general manager Sandberg played a key role in building Google into the $250 billion business it is today. Nothing succeeds like success and Sandberg was snapped up by Facebook’s Zuckerberg in 2008.

Updated Date: Mar 12, 2013 10:56:55 IST