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March 18th, 2013
11:13 AM ET

Facebook's Sandberg: The role of men in the 'Lean In' discussion

EDITOR’S NOTE: Watch part two of Soledad O'Brien's interview with Sheryl Sandberg on "Starting Point" at 8:30a a.m. ET on Tuesday, March 19th.

There has been much debate over a controversial new book written by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It's called "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead." The book is filled with advice encouraging women to be leaders in the workplace and rid themselves of the stereotypes that hold them back. Some critics say, though, that Sandberg's is unrealistic for women who are trying to balance work and family.

Also this morning, Sandberg has written an opinion piece for CNN.com titled "Speak up, believe in yourself, take risks." She writes that "by talking openly about the challenges that women face in the workplace and at home, we can work towards solutions together. We can't ignore the subject any longer. We need to listen, talk and listen, debate, learn, evolve, and take action."

Soledad O'Brien had a chance to sit down with Sandberg in Facebook's New York office. After the jump below, find out what she had to say about the controversy surrounding her book and how men can help women "lean in" in their careers.

WHAT "LEAN IN" IS ABOUT:
"Lean In" is not about fixing women and it's certainly not about, you know, anyone can do this all on their own. "Lean In" is about all of us coming together to understand the stereotypes that are holding women back and fix them.

ON WHAT FEMINISM MEANS TODAY:
So I wrote that I never used the word feminism to describe myself until a number of years ago. I mean, when I was in college or even recently, you don't want to be a feminist...Feminists don't get dates. Feminists were angry or done, because everything was going to be equal. When I was in college, and I know we're roughly the same age, we believed everything would be equal. No one talked about work-life balance that I remember. No one worried about these things. We thought it would be equal, but it hasn't worked out that way. And I now proudly call myself a feminist.

ROLE OF MEN IN THE "LEAN IN" DEBATE:
When I got on stage 2 1/2 years ago and said the blunt truth is men ran the world, the audience gasped, as if this was news. I sat down at a very exclusive conference next to a man who looked at me and said, "Remember us." I was like, "What do you mean?"

"Remember us. There is a place for white men in the world." And I looked at him and said, "Are you looking around this conference? There has never been a company in your industry not run by a white man." He said, "Oh, no, no, change is coming."

Well, it's been ten years with no progress at the top of corporate America, and that's stagnation. And "Lean In" has stirred up an active debate, a heated debate. I'm grateful for that debate because I think that's our only chance of waking up to this problem.

ON CRITICISM THAT SANDBERG'S ADVICE DOESN'T APPLY TO AVERAGE WOMAN:
If you read the book, I'm very clear the institutional policies and changes we need. But more importantly, the research shows something very conclusively, which is that when more women are in senior management roles, those companies have better work-life policies for women.

ON HER MALE MENTORS:
I've never worked for a woman. I have been really lucky and I've had great mentors and great sponsors and part of "Lean In" is trying to help people find the right way to develop those mentors and sponsors, and saying to every man out there, "It should be a badge of honor to mentor a young woman." Not something you're as shamed to do, not something you're afraid someone will assume something bad, but a badge of honor that you're willing to spend your time giving benefit of your experience to young women in the workforce. They need it.

ON THE LACK OF RESPONSE FROM MEN ON THE BOOK:
Most of the debate about "Lean In" has been women, especially for the first couple weeks before the book was out. One thing I - someone asked me what was the most surprising thing. The most surprising thing was that no man said a word. I couldn't find a man writing a line, saying a word.

SANDBERG: I think it's too hard for men to talk about gender. A friend of mine who runs a large institution said it's easier to talk about your sex life in public, as a man, than talk about gender. We have to let men talk about this. I hope men enter the conversation and the controversy around my book, because - and every issue, not just mine, every issue –. because we need men to talk about this, too, if it's ever going to change.

THE UPSIDE FOR MEN IN THE "LEAN IN" DISCUSSION:
If you are the men, who wants - more people want to work for, if you're the one who can use 51 percent of the population, you'll do better. I was talking with Ken Chenault about this, American Express, and he said when we evaluate senior leaders who we're going to promote, we're looking not just at their results, but we're looking at how many followers do they have? How many people want to work for that person? This will give you more people that want to work for you, and you're going to outperform your peers.


Filed under: Lean In • Sheryl Sandberg
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. WhoIsJohnGalt

    F Sandburg. Her and garbage inspired my wife to leave me since the marriage and talk of family are holding her back from leaning in since she married to young at age 24. What a joke, lean in teaches you one thing, be a narcissist.

    April 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lorrs

    I love perhaps mostly that this book is written by someone from my generation. Not a baby boomer or a Gen Y person but a solid generation X woman who is honestly mystified that there was work to be done for our gender and we did not know it.
    It all seemed so normal and comfortable in the 1990's and 2000's. After all that guy really didn't say that sexist thing- he was being ironic! However, we all ran into our own private walls in our businesses and now our lives with children have become cloudy and we still can't quite believe how the sexism happened to us and continues to buy our silence. I am just now able to look back on my career since college in the early 1990's and know that it was a bumpy road navigating through the men and realize now that the women who came before me were buried in time and were never given the tools to transition back to work if needed or ever given leadership to be a role model. I want to speak out about these issue but I admit I am not powerful enough to sustain the backlash of silence from my network of male peers. I applaud "Lean In" for saying something- anything even if it is not describing my life perfectly.

    March 19, 2013 at 2:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. alinekaplan

    This morning I posted Part One of two comments on the interview with the COO Sheryl Sandberg on my blog The Next Phase. Today's comments deals with the reactions–from women–to her book. Tomorrow's post will discuss the missing piece that Ms. Sandberg and Ms. O'Brien dealt with–but only tangentially– in the interview. You can read my comments here: http://bit.ly/Zn1cwn

    March 18, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse | Reply

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