The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec


By Noel Young, Correspondent

March 11, 2013 | 4 min read

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's No 2 who helped build the social network into a multi-billion company, has started a big debate in the US about America's failure to give top jobs to women.

The 43-year-old mother of two has been conducting a media blitz this weekend in support of her book , Lean In. Her message is simple: Corporate America still marginalises women.

She has has been saying it on TV shows - 60 Minutes last night and Good Morning America this morning - and in USA Today and Time magazine where she is the cover story.

Sandberg, who describes the 240-page book as "sort of a feminist manifesto," has earned praise, and daggers says USA Today.

She wants to build a new women's movement- but critics see her as naive and disconnected from reality.

"I welcome a reaction," Sandberg says. "If nothing was said, that would be disappointing. The point is to create a dialogue."

The book details why American business largely remains a man's game. The culture ,she says, still doesn't fully comprehend the hurdles that women face.

Most of the criticism levelled at her centres on the debate over whether working women can "have it all" — a career and family.

"We should use the talents of the full population," says the happily married Sandberg, who once said she leaves work at 5:30 to go home to see her kids.

She has coordinated the launch of a website,, and a think tank at Stanford University to spread the word.

Sandberg says,"The blunt truth is that men still run the world. Ten years of no progress is a stall. We need a new dialogue on gender."

Women make up 51% of the U.S. population and 47% of the workforce, yet only 4% are CEOs and 17% are board members.

Sandberg says, "Almost no one understands that women have made no progress at the top in 10 years — that is true of any industry and government.

" I want to change the conversation from what (women) can't do to what we can do."

As men advance in business, Sandberg point out, they are more liked. But as women make strides in an organisation, they are less liked.

The New York Times and the Daily Mail have portrayed her as a rich elitist hopelessly out of touch with most women.

She denies the book is a springboard to a run for political office. "Absolutely not."

She tells how former House speaker Tip O'Neill said to her, "You're pretty. Are you a pom-pom girl?" She describes how an unnamed male executive welcomed questions from other men during a dinner meeting - but wouldn't allow women to join in.

"I believe the women's movement has stalled," says new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "Sheryl is creating an organised effort for women to be heard."

The first-term senator is sponsoring legislation for equal pay and improved child care. On women's issues, the two are friends and allies .

Sandberg was chief of staff at the Treasury at 29; vice president at start-up Google at 32; and is now chief operating officer of Facebook which has annual revenue of $5.1 billion.

Alexandra Levy, a former Google executive hired by Sandberg told USA Today,"You can have it all, by her definition, which is unrealistic.

"But I think she misses the fundamental issue about time management. There are only 24 hours in a day. How many hours do you want to spend with kids? Exercising? Running a huge company?"

Doreen Bloch, CEO of personal-care site, said Sandberg was a marvellous leader, and she considered her a role model.

But she told the newspaper."I personally do not see value in buying the book because the concept is straightforward. Rather than read about climbing the corporate ladder, it's best to just get back to work."

The book has a first print of of 400,000. Sheryl, a multi-millionaire, is unlikely to worry over whether Doreen's put-down costs her a few sales.