by Nicoline Roth
Our first BOLD woman profile is dedicated to a frontrunner of female empowerment, and one of the most powerful women in business, namely Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook for the past 10 years. Her degree of boldness is truly inspiring: Harvard summa cum laude graduate, hired as COO of Facebook to boost their revenues, the fourth most powerful woman in the world according to Forbes (2017), and finally, a woman who changed the conversation on female empowerment and women in the workforce with two little words in 2013: “Lean in”. As the profile will show, Sheryl Sandberg has proven that hard work pays off. She has been unapologetic in her academic and professional endeavors that have gotten her to where she is today; at the forefront of one of the most valuable companies in the world. Whether one agrees with her opinions or not, she represents the essence of what we believe boldness is.
Sheryl Sandberg was born in Washington, D.C. in 1969. After graduating 9th in her high school class with a 4.6 GPA, Sheryl graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in economics, graduating summa cum laude. She subsequently went on to work as chief of staff for her Harvard professor and mentor, Lawrence Summers, when he became deputy Secretary of Treasury in the Clinton administration. When the Republicans took office in November 2000, Sheryl finally decided to make her move to Silicon Valley, to become Google’s vice president of global online sales & operations. After 7 years at Google, Sheryl met Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party, and rumour has it, that both instantly found each other appealing, starting a friendship, that one year later culminated with Mark offering Sheryl the position as COO of Facebook. In the year leading up to COO appointment, Sheryl and Mark would meet regularly to discuss Facebook’s future, as the company was preparing to scale. With differing visions on fundamental issues for Facebook, Sheryl accepted on the condition that both had to give constructive feedback to each other every Monday morning and Friday afternoon. Something which they still do to this day, and what Sheryl has credited as one of the best decisions anyone can make for the relationship with a business partner. On an episode of Linkedin co-founder and chairman Reid Hoffman’s podcast “Master of Scale”, Mark Zuckerberg has later said that since working with Sheryl Sandberg, he has realized the single most important thing when scaling a business, is surrounding yourself with the best people you can find, a big credit to his most trusted business partner.
Since her time at Harvard, Sheryl has been known for her interest and vocal support of women in the workplace. At Harvard, she founded a community called Women in Economics and Government, with the aim of getting more women to major in government and economics. In 2004, she married Dave Goldberg, a Yahoo! Executive and later CEO of Survey Monkey. His unconditional support of his wife’s career and her vocal support of female career advancement was never questioned. After they were married, he pushed Sheryl to negotiate harder for higher compensation, and he rearranged his own career, so he could be at home with their two children, when she was busy or traveling for work. When Sheryl published “Lean In” in 2013, she changed the conversation about women in the workplace, by telling women that notwithstanding gender biases still apparent in most workplaces, excuses or justifications won’t get anybody anywhere. Instead, women must believe in themselves, have courage and dare to take a “seat at the table” and that nobody should “leave before they leave”. On a family vacation in 2015, Dave Goldberg died suddenly at the age of 47. In the aftermath of his death, Sheryl spoke out about the hardship of losing her soulmate on her Facebook: "Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn't sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way – and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit. . .Things will never be the same – but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived."
Why is she BOLD? Shery Sandberg is the proof that education and hard work matters. After graduating from one of the most prestigious schools in the world, she worked her way up, making sure to exploit the connections she made, like going on to work for her Harvard college professor. She is literate and outspoken on behalf of other women. And right when her success seems to be an outcome of her tough side and ability to handle male dominated environments, she shows the most vulnerable side of herself, namely after losing her husband, Dave. This is the essence of being BOLD.