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.