Who Is Sheryl Sandberg?
Born in 1969 in Washington, D.C., Sheryl Sandberg attended Harvard as an undergrad and for business school, her early career taking her to the World Bank and then the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Following a successful stint as VP of online sales and operations at Google, Sandberg has served as COO of Facebook since 2008. In 2013, she published the best-selling Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
Early Years and Education
Sheryl Sandberg was born on August 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C., and moved with her family to North Miami Beach, Florida, when she was two years old. She was in the National Honor Society at North Miami Beach Senior High School, and graduated ninth in her class in 1987, with a 4.6 GPA.
Sandberg went on to major in economics at Harvard, where she had the esteemed Lawrence Summers as a thesis adviser. Her study of economics often came through a feminist lens, as she focused on the role that economic inequality plays in spousal abuse. She also founded an organization called Women in Economics and Government, which, she says, was created “to get more women to major in government and economics.”
After graduating summa cum laude in 1991, Sandberg became a research assistant for Summers, now the World Bank’s chief economist. She worked for Summers for two years and then enrolled at Harvard Business School, attaining her M.B.A. and graduating with distinction in 1995.
Sandberg’s and Summers’ paths crossed again, when he became deputy Treasury secretary in the Bill Clinton administration and asked her to become his chief of staff. She accepted the position, and continued in the role when Summers became secretary of the Treasury in 1999. She served at Summers’ side until 2001, when Republican George W. Bush moved into the White House and political appointees from the other side of the aisle took over.
With her government job behind her, Sandberg moved to Silicon Valley, eager to join the new tech boom that was under way. Google showed early interest in her abilities, and she found Google’s mission, which she described as “to make the world’s information freely available,” compelling enough to sign on with the three-year-old company in November 2001.
As Google’s vice president of global online sales and operations, Sandberg was responsible for managing online sales of advertising and publishing products, Google Book Search and consumer products. Sandberg was with Google until 2008, her tenure marked by stunning professional success and an ever-growing reputation as one of the top executives in the country.
In March 2008, Sandberg joined Facebook as the company’s chief operating officer. From her COO post, Sandberg oversees Facebook’s business operations, specifically helping Facebook scale its operations and expand its global footprint. She also oversees sales management, business development, human resources, marketing, public policy, privacy and communications.
For her duties, Sandberg has been richly rewarded, and she made her way onto the billionaires’ list in early 2014, based on her stake in Facebook. Additionally, she became the first female member of the company's board of directors in 2012.
Sandberg's tenure at Facebook has not been devoid of controversy. With the social media behemoth facing scrutiny over its complicity in election meddling, she was compelled to defend the company's actions before the Senate in 2018. Late that year, it was reported that she had instructed the communications staff to examine the finances of George Soros, following the billionaire investor's criticism of Facebook and other big tech companies.
Books: 'Lean In' and 'Option B'
Sandberg is the author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which became a best-seller following its 2013 publication and was optioned as a film. Additionally, Lean In inspired a global community group, LeanIn.org, which Sandberg founded to support women striving to reach their ambitions.
The executive followed with another successful book in 2017, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
Sandberg married businessman Brian Kraff in 1993, although the pair divorced a year later. In 2004, she married Dave Goldberg, a Yahoo! executive who later became the CEO of SurveyMonkey. The couple went on to have two children together.
Sandberg has written about Goldberg's supportive role in her life and career. On March 5, 2015, she posted on Facebook: "I wrote in Lean In that the most important decision a woman makes is if she has a life partner and who that life partner will be. The best decision I ever made was to marry Dave. "
On May 1, 2015, Goldberg died suddenly at the age of 47 while on a family vacation in Mexico. The cause of his death was head trauma after slipping on a treadmill.
Sandberg wrote about her husband in a Facebook post following his death: "Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn't sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way – and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit ... Things will never be the same – but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived."
Sandberg eventually found love again in the arms of Tom Bernthal, founder of a Los Angeles-based marketing research and brand consulting agency. She announced their engagement in February 2020.
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