Menlo Park, CA
- Known For:
COO of Facebook and Meta Platforms
About Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Kara Sandberg was born August 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C., to Adele and Joel Sandberg. Adele Sandberg was a college professor, and Joel Sandberg was an ophthalmologist. The Sandberg family had three children. Sheryl was the oldest, followed by David and Michelle.
Sandberg grew up in North Miami Beach after moving to Florida with her family at the age of two. She attended North Miami Beach High School, graduating ninth in her class in 1987.
The Sandbergs were a Jewish family. After Joel and Adele Sandberg helped found the South Florida Conference on Soviet Jewry, Sandberg’s childhood home often functioned as a temporary hotel for Soviet Jews escaping anti-Semitism.
Following high school, Sandberg attended Harvard, majoring in economics. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1991 and received the John H. Williams Prize for being the top graduating student in economics.
Sandberg’s thesis focused on economic inequality and spousal abuse. While at Harvard, she co-founded a group called Women in Economics and Government. Sandberg returned to Harvard in 1993 to study business. She earned her MBA in 1995.
In 2014, Sandberg became the second female billionaire to sign The Giving Pledge, an initiative led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Warren Buffett, which encourages wealthy individuals to donate the majority of their money to charity. Sandberg pledged to give away half of her wealth during her lifetime.
Sandberg’s career began when Lawrence Summers recruited her as a research assistant after she graduated with her undergraduate degree. Summers was one of Sandberg’s professors at Harvard. At the time, he was the chief economist at the World Bank.
Sandberg’s next job came in 1995 after finishing her MBA program. She worked for one year as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company before again being recruited by her former professor Lawrence Summers who had recently been appointed the United States Secretary of the Treasury. Sandberg worked for Summers as his chief of staff from 1996 to 2001.
Sandberg left her work in the public sector when she joined Google in 2001 as its business unit general manager. She later became vice president of global and online sales. While at Google, Sandberg managed the development of Adwords and Adsense, grew her sales team from four employees to 4,000, and led the company to profitability.
In 2007, Sandberg met Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party. For months following their first introduction, they frequently met to discuss the possibility of Sandberg joining Facebook as chief operating officer. In March 2008, she officially announced that she would leave Google and join Facebook.
As COO, Sandberg is credited for leading Facebook to a profitable business model. In 2007, before Sandberg joined Facebook, its reported revenue was $153 million. In 2021, Sandberg’s final full year at the company, revenue reached $39.3 billion. This was the same year the company announced it would change its name to Meta Platforms.
In addition to acting as COO, Sandberg has been on Facebook’s board of directors since 2012. In 2022, Sandberg stepped down as COO of Meta Platforms, though she remains on the board.
During her tenure at Facebook, Sandberg also took on other roles in both the public and private sectors. She was named to Barack Obama’s advisory council on jobs and competitiveness in 2011. She also served on the boards of Disney, Starbucks, and Women for Women International.
While at Harvard Business School, Sandberg was briefly married to Washington businessman Brian Kraff. However, the marriage ended after one year.
Sandberg met her future husband, Dave Goldberg, in 1996 through a mutual friend. Initially, they formed a friendship but began dating in 2002. They were married in 2004 and had two children together, a son born in 2005 and a daughter born in 2007.
In 2015, Goldberg died unexpectedly while on vacation with Sandberg in Mexico. Sandberg has openly shared with the public about her experience with grief.
Five years after Goldberg’s death, Sandberg became engaged to Kelton Global CEO Tom Bernthal. They held their wedding in August 2022. The two now live together in Menlo Park, California, with Sandberg’s two children and Bernthal’s three children.
In 2013, Sandberg co-authored Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead with media writer Nell Scovell. The book encourages women to be more assertive at work and at home. It remained on the list of New York Times bestsellers for over a year and sold over 4 million copies. The book received critical acclaim. However, some were also critical of the book for its failure to acknowledge discrimination and systemic issues women face in the workplace.
In 2017, Sandberg released her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, which she co-wrote with psychologist Adam Grant. In this book, Sandberg discussed grief and resilience in the aftermath of her husband’s death.
Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation
After each of Sandberg’s books, she created non-profit organizations based on the books’ principles. The first book led to the creation of the Lean In Foundation, which aims to support women through community, education, and peer groups.
After the release of Sandberg’s second book, she formed OptionB.org, which provides advice and support for individuals facing hardship and loss. The Lean In Foundation and OptionB.org are the two organizations that form the umbrella organization, the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.
Sandberg is known for being an inclusive, humble, and genuine leader. David Fischer, who worked with her at the U.S. Treasury, commented on how she works to lift up people around her. He said, “A key part of what Sheryl does in her life is helping people advance, to be seen and to be heard.”
Mark Zuckerberg explained that she doesn’t have a lot of ego, despite her success. He said, “I think the fact that she really wants to get her hands dirty and work, and doesn’t need to be the front person all the time, is the amazing thing about her. It’s that low-ego element, where you can help the people around you and not need to be the face of all the stuff.”
Sandberg explained her preference for having personal connections at work when she said, “I believe in bringing your whole self to work. We are who we are. When you try to have this division between your personal self and your professional self, what you really are is stiff . . . That doesn’t mean people have to tell me everything about their personal lives. But I’m pretty sharing of mine.”
While Sandberg is known for being a personable leader and an effective businesswoman, she has been criticized for her involvement in a series of Facebook-related controversies.
In 2018, Sandberg was entangled in the Cambridge-Analytica scandal, which involved the unauthorized harvesting of over 87 million Facebook users’ data. Sandberg testified in front of the U.S. Congress to address the data breach.
Sandberg claimed personal responsibility when she said, “I feel deeply personally responsible because a lot of mistakes were made. What we didn’t do until recently and what we are doing now is just take a broader view looking to be more restrictive in ways data could be misused. We also didn’t build our operations fast enough—and that’s on me.”
Sheryl Sandberg Today
Since stepping down from her role as COO at Meta Platforms, Sandberg has focused on philanthropy. Through LeanIn.org, OptionB.org, and partnerships with other charitable organizations, she has raised awareness and funds for multiple causes.
In 2023, Sandberg is using her social media platforms to highlight Care.org’s work in aiding victims of earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. She has also raised awareness of mental health issues among students in partnership with the educational technology company Chegg.
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