Mark Zuckerberg may be the face of Facebook. But Sheryl Sandberg can take much of the credit for the company’s success. As chief operating officer — and the self-described “grownup” in the room — she was also the highest-paid employee at the social networking site. Her salary and stock awards last year: a cool $30.87 million, putting her on pace to be one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world once the company goes public.
Sandberg, who’s second in command at Facebook, is often not just the grownup in the room, but also the only woman, which she finds mind-boggling. As she told an audience at TED in Washington, D.C., “One hundred and ninety heads of state; nine are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, 13% are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top, C-level jobs, board seats, tops out at 15-16%. The numbers have not moved since 2002 and are going in the wrong direction.”
Sandberg, however, is moving in a trajectory that goes straight up: She studied economics at Harvard, where Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, took notice of her. He, as you may remember from “The Social Network,” was president of Harvard when Zuckerberg was a student.
Summers became her mentor, and after he left to lead the World Bank, he hired her, launching her stellar career. Sandberg eventually ended up at Google and was recruited by Zuckerberg in 2008. As described in a story for the New Yorker, the two met for dinner twice a week for six weeks. Sandberg’s husband described the courtship as “dating.” They were a match.
Facebook wasn’t always a Wall Street darling. When Sandberg started, the company had 70 million users and was losing money. Four years later, the company has reversed course, with 800 million-plus members; it’s profitable and soon to be a public company. She is said to be in charge of everything except the product — which is Zuckerberg’s baby.
Sheryl is married to David Goldberg, chief executive officer of Survey Monkey. They have two children and juggle the responsibility of parenting with the demands of work. The shared responsibility of child care made it possible for her continued success. As Sandberg told an audience last year, “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.”
Not that she doesn’t feel pangs of guilt — far from it. The working mom admitted in the New Yorker profile: “I feel guilty working because of my kids.” But she advises women to take care of their careers and says “don’t leave before you leave.” As she said at TED, “Don’t leave the workforce to have kids and not return because you didn’t get that job you wanted before you left.”
To this end, the woman who stands to become a billionaire when Facebook goes public, also sees that she can’t succeed alone. In a commencement address to Barnard College graduates, she said, “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”
To be sure, Sandberg will not be overlooked or ignored.