“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and the bestselling author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, a book she wrote to help empower women in the workplace. Worth over $1 billion, mainly due to her shares in Facebook, Sheryl was the first female to join Facebook's board and features regularly in Most Influential and Most Powerful lists.
Not only is Sheryl a role model for many because of her career success, but her championing of women's rights and sharing of her personal struggles – balancing a high-powered tech career with motherhood, for example, and her raw grief as a recent widow – have made her an inspiration to many people worldwide.
Sheryl was born in 1969 in Washington and credits her mother and grandmother as strong, philanthropic role models while she was growing up. She was top of her class, studied at Harvard, and became chief of staff for the US Secretary of the Treasury, Larry Summers, during Bill Clinton's presidency. She joined Google in 2001 as their vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations before heading to Facebook in 2008.
Inspiring career woman – and human being
In 2010 she gave a TEDtalk, viewed over five million times online, called Why we have too few women leaders. In her speech, she urged women to "sit at the table"; in other words, to get involved in conversations, apply for leadership roles, and ask for raises. They were strong words from a high-powered American executive, but when she also shared a personal story about guiltily dropping her daughter off at daycare that morning, she suddenly became more relatable to working mothers from all walks of life.
In 2013 she co-wrote Lean In, which addresses the lack of females in senior positions and offers advice on negotiating a pay rise or promotion, pursuing your goals, and believing in yourself. She also shares her experiences of working as a female minority in the tech industry with primarily young males, and coping with pregnancy and early motherhood while continuing to work. The book has resulted in tens of thousands of Lean In circles – local groups for women to support and encourage each other in business – being created around the world, and a recent campaign called Ban Bossy (in our house, we like to call it "leadership potential").
"Kick the sh** out of option B"
In May 2015, Sheryl's life took a dramatic turn when her beloved husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, died from a treadmill accident during a family holiday in Mexico. The couple had famously supported each other so that both could pursue their careers while also spending time with their two children.
Not long after Dave's death, Sheryl posted a poignant and inspiring meditation on grief and loss on Facebook which was shared 400,000 times. In her post she says that although option A has been taken from her, and she will always love and mourn option A, she is determined to "kick the sh** out of option B".