“I want to be clear–I’m not trying to tell anyone what do to. And I’m not trying to prescribe goals for anyone,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg last night at Time Warner. She was patiently explaining yet again the purpose of Lean In: “I’m trying to help women answer the question, ‘If I do want leadership, how do I get there?'”
“My book is not meant to be comprehensive. I don’t have parenting advice, it doesn’t go deeply into the public policy issues. It’s one piece of the puzzle.”
As she was introduced, Ms. Sandberg took a brief moment to examine her sleek dark dress for imperfections, picking at a few invisibile specks of fluff before settling back into her chair with cotillion-appropriate demureness and flashing that million-watt boardroom-ready smile. Moderating: Time deputy managing editor Nancy Gibbs. The audience was full of heavy hitters, with questions from attendees like Leslie Stahl and Gayle King.
It’s not like Ms. Sandberg relishes breaking the bad news to her fellow working women. Sure, she tells women they have to frame requests for raises in terms of the company’s best interests, but “I hate that advice. I hate the advice I have to give women. I want all of this to change.”
“In the meantime, I’d rather teach women to say ‘we’ and get paid more.”
It also sounds like Ms. Sandberg spends a fair bit of her jetset life seething with exasperation. She recently attended “very exclusive conference of course attended mostly by men.” A fellow conference-goer (male, of course) sat down next to her at lunch, and as she recounted, their conversation went a little something like this:
Him: “Remember us.”
Ms. Sandberg: “What do you mean?”
Him: “Remember us. There’s a place for men when you’re all running the world.”
Ms. Sandberg: “Look around this conference. You guys are in good shape! You’re good to go.”
Ms. Sandberg, again: “There has never been a woman who ran a company in your industry ever.”
Him: “Well, the end of men is coming.”
Someone rescue this man from his own Atlantic subscription, please.
Forget all that, though: What about working from home?
Ms. Sandberg didn’t miss a beat, and she certainly didn’t mention Marissa Mayer: “There are Facebook employees we’ve never met. Not joking.”