WASHINGTON Sheryl Sandberg is not one to settle for being the It Girl of Silicon Valley.
Nor is the chief operating officer of Facebook willing to write a book that people might merely read.
One of her friends from her Harvard days told Vogue that the brainy, beautiful, charming, stylish, happily married 43-year-old mother of two, one of the worlds richest self-made women, has an infectious insistence. (She would have to, having founded Harvards aerobics program in the 80s, wearing blue eye shadow and leg warmers.)
Now that she has domesticated the Facebook frat house, Sandberg wants to be the pompom girl for feminism, as she calls it. She has a grandiose plan to become the PowerPoint Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots reigniting the womens revolution Betty Friedan for the digital age. She wants women to stop limiting and sabotaging themselves.
The petite corporate star is larger than life, and a normal book tour for Lean In, which she describes as sort of a feminist manifesto mixed with career advice, just wont do.
I always thought I would run a social movement, she said in Makers, an AOL/PBS documentary on feminist history.
Sandberg may have caught the fever to change the world from Mark Zuckerberg, or come by it genetically. She writes that her mother, at age 11, responded to a rabbis sermon on tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world, by grabbing a tin can and knocking on doors to support civil rights workers in the South.
Sandberg, who worked at the Treasury Department for her mentor, Larry Summers, and at Google before going to Facebook, started a group called the Women of Silicon Valley to listen to celebrity speakers and swap stories.
Her book is chockablock with good tips and insights, if a bit discouraging at times. She urges women in salary negotiations to smile frequently and use the word we instead of I. And she encourages employers and women to talk upfront about plans for children, which employers may fear is lawsuit fodder.
She seems to think she can remedy social paradigms with a new kind of club a combo gabfest, Oprah session and corporate pep talk. (Wheres the yoga?)
Sandberg has been recruiting corporations to join her Lean In Foundation, which will create the Lean In Community and Lean In Circles, which are, as The Times Jodi Kantor wrote, like consciousness-raising groups of yore. The circles will entail eight to 12 peers who will meet monthly and use education modules to learn the skills to pursue equality. (Like how Rosa Parks used bus modules.) The debut assignment is a video on how to command more authority by altering how you speak and sit.
Sandberg has already gotten some flak from women who think that her attitude is too elitist and that she is too prone to blame women for failing to get ahead. Noting that her Facebook page for Lean In looks more like an ego wall with deep thoughts, critics argue that her unique perch as a mogul with the worlds best husband to boot makes her tone-deaf to the problems average women face as they struggle to make ends meet while taking care of kids, aging parents and housework.
Sandberg describes taking her kids to a business conference last year and realizing en route that her daughter had head lice. But the good news was that she was on the private eBay jet.
Sandberg may mean well, and she may be setting up a run for national office. But she doesnt understand the difference between a social movement and a social network marketing campaign. Just because digital technology makes connecting possible doesnt mean youre actually reaching people.
People come to a social movement from the bottom up, not the top down. Sandberg has co-opted the vocabulary and romance of a social movement not to sell a cause, but herself.
She says shes using marketing for the purpose of social idealism. But shes actually using social idealism for the purpose of marketing.
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