While the tech industry has historically been dominated by men, many women have overcome gender stereotypes and challenges to make significant contributions to the industry. In my last post, we looked at two pioneers of the past: Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, and Grace Hopper, who worked on the first compiler and inspired COBOL, one of the first widely-used high-level programming languages. Today, we will be looking at an inspirational woman who is at the forefront of the industry today.
Sheryl Sandberg was born on August 28, 1969 in Washington D.C.. In 1987, she enrolled at Harvard College where she met her thesis advisor, economist Lawrence Summers. After her graduation, when Summers became Chief Economist at the World Bank, Sandberg became his research assistant, working for two years to help developing countries deal with health issues such as leprosy, AIDS, and blindness. In 1993, she enrolled at Harvard Business School. After graduating with the highest distinction, she worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company for a year before working for Summers again (he was then serving as United States Secretary of Treasury) from 1996 to 2001 as his Chief of Staff.
In 2001, Sandberg joined Google as vice president of global sales, leading online sales operations for Google’s advertising, publishing, and consumer products. During her time at Google from 2001-2008, she grew the online sales and operations team from four people to 4,000, and was responsible for two-thirds of Google’s revenue, around $14 billion dollars.
In 2007, Mark Zuckerberg met Sandberg at a Christmas party and thought she would be perfect for the COO role at Facebook. Sandberg joined the company in 2008 and immediately focused on making Facebook profitable. She revamped their advertising strategy with sponsored posts and targeted advertising, helped Facebook create strategic partnerships with tech giants such as Microsoft, and monetized their mobile users when more users began to access Facebook through their phones. This significantly increased Facebook’s revenue - from $272 million in 2008 to $118 billion in 2021 - and user base from 100 million users to two billion users. In 2012, she became the first woman on Facebook’s board of directors, and in 2013, she released her first book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, offering advice to women trying to overcome gender stereotypes and achieve their career goals. Sandberg announced her resignation as COO in 2022, wanting to write the next chapter of her life.
Sandberg was ranked as one of the 50 “Most Powerful Women in Business” by Fortune Magazine eight times and by Forbes three times. In 2012, she was named in Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She was one of the first women to break into Silicon Valley, shattering the glass ceiling for women in tech many times over, and her leadership helped Facebook become one of the most profitable companies in the world.