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Sheryl Sandberg pushes women to "lean in"

Why aren't more women in leadership positions? Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg tells Norah O'Donnell women need to learn to "lean in."
Sheryl Sandberg pushes women to "lean in" 12:37

The following script is from "Sheryl Sandberg" which aired on March 10, 2013 and was rebroadcast on June 30, 2013. Norah O'Donnell is the correspondent. Tanya Simon and Deirdre Naphin, producers.

Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of the social networking giant Facebook, but that's not what's been putting her in the headlines. In a book published earlier this year, she tackled one of most hotly debated and intensely personal issues out there: women in the workplace. The book was an instant best seller and touched such a nerve that its title, "Lean In" has become part of the lexicon. In it, Sandberg proposes a reason for why there are so few women in leadership: the problem she says might just be women themselves.

Despite the fact that women have been getting more college degrees than men for 30 years, they still account for only four percent of CEOs in America's Fortune 500 Companies -- and as Sheryl Sandberg told us in March, that number needs to change.

Sheryl Sandberg: The very blunt truth is that men still run the world.

Norah O'Donnell: But what about the women's revolution?

Sheryl Sandberg: I think we're stalled. I think we're stalled. And I think we need to acknowledge that we're stalled so that we can change it.

Norah O'Donnell: Are you trying to reignite the revolution?

Sheryl Sandberg: I think so.

Sheryl Sandberg is an unlikely revolutionary. At 43, she is one of the few women at the top of corporate America, yet she's surprisingly uncomfortable with her own power and influence - something she has fought since her days at North Miami Beach Senior High, where her classmates voted her most likely to succeed.

Sheryl Sandberg: And my friend was on the yearbook staff. And I went to find her and I said, "I do not want to be most likely to succeed."

Norah O'Donnell: What?

Sheryl Sandberg: Most likely to succeed is not the girl who gets a date to the prom. And I was worried enough about that.

Norah O'Donnell: You were embarrassed?

Sheryl Sandberg: I was embarrassed. My entire life I have been told, you know, or I have felt that I should hold back on being too successful, too smart, too, you know, lots of things.

She says that kind of self-doubt isn't unique to her -- it resides deep inside most women, who learn to downplay their accomplishments at a young age. In her 20 years in the work place, she says she has noticed a stark difference in the way men and women view their success.

Sheryl Sandberg: Women attribute their success to working hard, luck, and help from other people. Men will attribute that-- whatever success they have, that same success, to their own core skills.

Norah O'Donnell: So what do you attribute your success to?

Sheryl Sandberg: I think, you know, my success, if I want to honestly want to attribute it, it's attributed to a lot of things, some of which really are luck, working hard, and help from others. Like, I've had--

Norah O'Donnell: What about your core skills?

Sheryl Sandberg: And my core skills. And my core skills. But it is both.

Norah O'Donnell: But Sheryl, you are-- you're one of the most powerful women in the world and you still can't attribute your success to your own core skills?

Sheryl Sandberg: No, I can s-- I can, more.

It's that mindset that led Sheryl Sandberg to reach the conclusion that's at the heart of her book: it's not just men who hold women back, women do it to themselves. They play it too safe at work, worry too much about being liked and turn down opportunities in anticipation of having a family one day.

Sheryl Sandberg: They start leaning back. They say, "Oh, I'm busy. I want to have a child one day. I couldn't possibly, you know, take on any more." Or, "I'm still learning on my current job." I've never had a man say that stuff to me.

Norah O'Donnell: You're suggesting women aren't ambitious.

Sheryl Sandberg: I'm not suggesting women aren't ambitious. Plenty of women are as ambitious as men. What I am saying, and I want to say it unequivocally and unapologetically, that the data is clear that when it comes to ambition to lead, to be the leader of whatever you're doing, men, boys, outnumber girls and women.

Norah O'Donnell: But some women will hear that and say, "Wow, she's telling me I'm not working hard enough, I'm not trying hard enough. She's blaming women..."

Sheryl Sandberg: Yeah, I'm not blaming women. My message is not one of blaming women. There's an awful lot we don't control. I am saying that there's an awful lot we can control and we can do for ourselves to sit at more tables, raise more hands.

[Sheryl Sandberg: Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there.]

If there's one message she wants women to hear it's to aim high -- seek challenges and take risks -- and fight the instinct to hold back.

[Sheryl Sandberg: Do not lean back, lean in.]

It's territory she staked out in this 2011 commencement address that got a lot of attention.

Norah O'Donnell: Is it personal for you?

Sheryl Sandberg: This is deeply personal for me. I want every little girl who someone says they're bossy to be told instead, "You have leadership skills."

Norah O'Donnell: Because you were told you were bossy?

Sheryl Sandberg: Because I was told that. And because every woman I know who was in a leadership position was told that.

She's the oldest of three children, a born leader who seemed destined for success. At Harvard, her economics professor Larry Summers handpicked her to follow him to the World Bank and then to become his chief of staff when he was Treasury Secretary -- all before the age of 30. By 2001, she was headed to Silicon Valley where she almost turned down a job offer from Eric Schmidt, the CEO of a little known start-up called Google.

Sheryl Sandberg: I was supposed to be the first business unit general manager. But there were no business units. There was nothing to generally manage. And he kind of put his hand on my paper and he was like, "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don't ask what seat. Get on the rocket ship." And I did.

The rocket ship took off into the stratosphere and Sheryl Sandberg had a key role building Google into the more than $250 billion business it is today. In 2008, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg needed someone to help him run his social network and he offered her the job. What happened next is an example of where Sandberg says women often go wrong: she almost accepted the offer, without any negotiating. Her husband Dave Goldberg stepped in.

Sheryl Sandberg: And my husband is, like, "Are you kidding? You can't take the first offer." I'm like, "Well it's a generous offer and I really want this job." And finally with Dave there, my brother-in-law looked at me and goes, "You know, goddammit Sheryl, don't make less than any man would make doing this job. There is no man taking this job who would take the first offer."

Norah O'Donnell: And Dave, what did you think when she said, "I'm going to just go ahead and accept it?"

David Goldberg: Oh-- I was-- apoplectic. Apoplectic. "You're going to be running all the negotiations and deals, like, you can't-- you can't just take the first offer. It'll look bad." Not because it-- the money mattered so much but it was the principle. I wanted Mark to really feel he stretched to get Sheryl because she was worth it.

Dave Goldberg knows a thing or two about closing a deal. He's already sold one Internet company to Yahoo and is now running what looks like another big success. He embodies one more piece of advice his wife has for women who want to succeed, but it has less to do with the boardroom than the bedroom.

Sheryl Sandberg: Everyone knows marriage is the biggest personal decision you make. But it's the biggest career decision you make, if you're going to have a life partner, who that partner's going to be.

Norah O'Donnell: Well, that just puts more pressure on women.

Sheryl Sandberg: It's more pressure on women to-- if they marry or partner with someone, to partner with the right person. Because you cannot have a full career and a full life at home with your children if you are also doing all of the housework and child care.

Norah O'Donnell: Doesn't that kind of take the romance out of everything?

Sheryl Sandberg: You know what? It turns out that a husband who does the laundry, it's very romantic when you're older. And it's hard to believe when you're younger. But it's absolutely true. Actually, the studies show this. Husbands who do more housework have more sex with their wives.

Norah O'Donnell: There are studies that show this?

Sheryl Sandberg: Studies that show this.

David Goldberg: I can hear the men running off to the laundry machine right now.

It's hard to imagine that these two are spending a lot of time doing laundry. They are among the richest couples in Silicon Valley. But they insist they split their parenting responsibilities equally, trying to make sure at least one of them is home in time for dinner with their two young children.

Norah O'Donnell: Do you ever feel guilty about not being around for your children enough?

Sheryl Sandberg: Yeah. I mean, I feel guilty a lot. I compare myself to the women who are, you know, at-home mothers with their kids. I think I'm a little intimidated, to be totally honest. And then, I think-- because we all feel a little bit insecure about our own choices -- we get pitted against each other.

Norah O'Donnell: You think most women feel guilty about the choices that they've made?

Sheryl Sandberg: Every woman I know feels guilty about the choices they are making, including myself. In fact, I feel so guilty I wrote a whole book about it.

"Lean In" is more than a book for Sheryl Sandberg -- she's hoping to spark a movement online and in living rooms around the country, where women talk about ways to implement her advice. Sandberg also hosts parties in her own home to counteract what's been called a boys club in Silicon Valley.

But some of the very women she hopes will sign on to her movement have been turned off by her message, saying it's aimed at elite women and places unrealistic expectations on working moms who can't possibly afford all the household help Sheryl Sandberg can.

Sheryl Sandberg: I am not saying that everyone has the resources or opportunities I have. I'm not saying that everyone's husband is going to wake up tomorrow, read a book and start doing his share. Like, that's not what I'm saying. But I am saying that we need to help women own the power they have, learn how to negotiate for raises, get the pay they deserve.

Norah O'Donnell: You know, Sheryl, people are going to say, "Oh she's got a charmed life, She went to Harvard. She's a billionaire."

Sheryl Sandberg: Yep.

Norah O'Donnell: "And she's telling me what I should do?" Do they have a point?

Sheryl Sandberg: I'm not trying to say that everything I can do everyone can do. But I do believe that these messages are completely universal. The things that hold women back from sitting at the boardroom table and they hold women back from speaking up at the PTA meeting.

Norah O'Donnell: You think it's universal? Not just for elite women? I mean, what's a single mom going to be able to do with this message?

Sheryl Sandberg: Knowing how to ask for a raise successfully, it's probably more important to her but certainly just as important to her as it is for a woman in the executive suite.

Norah O'Donnell: And for those who say, "Easy for you to say?"

Sheryl Sandberg: It is easier for me to say this. And that's why I'm saying it.

How Sheryl Sandberg finds the time to say it is a wonder, considering her day job at Facebook...

[Sheryl Sandberg: So, this is the campus.]

...which on her watch has grown from 500 employees to nearly 5,000, and now has more than one billion users worldwide.

But the company is still under intense scrutiny after it went public last year. High expectations came crashing down along with the stock, which at one point lost half its value amid concerns the company could not maintain its rapid growth. By most accounts, the initial public offering of the stock was a disaster.

Norah O'Donnell: Was it embarrassing?

Sheryl Sandberg: I don't know if it was embarrassing. It wasn't fun. And it wasn't what we would've enjoyed having.

Norah O'Donnell: But you're second in command at this company. Do you feel at all any personal responsibility for how it went?

Sheryl Sandberg: I think we all feel personal responsibility for how everything goes here. And I feel my job and my commitment to anyone who bought stock whether they bought it at the IPO or they bought it since is -- it's my job to make this company as valuable as I possibly can.

The stock has started to rebound. And while Mark Zuckerberg is the creative force behind Facebook, it's Sheryl Sandberg's job to figure out how to tap its vast advertising potential. She says she is confident about Facebook's future, but her high profile has fueled speculation about her own. She says she's not leaving any time soon, but has been vocal about how few women hold elective office.

Norah O'Donnell: Does it bother you that there hasn't been a woman president of the United States?

Sheryl Sandberg: Yes. It does.

Norah O'Donnell: Why wouldn't you lean in and run?

Sheryl Sandberg: I mean, for me, I feel like I'm doing all the leaning in that I can do right now.

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