Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, a former Google VP and chief of staff to the ex-Treasury secretary, has both inspired and inflamed with her views on what women need to do to get ahead in the corporate world. (Watch her TED talk, "Why we have too few women leaders," here.) Sandberg's rise to tech stardom is chronicled in the current issue of The New Yorker. Here, five highlights:
1. Google is still smarting from her departure
Google wasn't thrilled with how their former VP of global online sales and operations handled her exit. "She could have handled her departure more crisply," says a top Google official. After taking the Facebook job, she told people she was attracted to the company because of its focus on human instinct and relationship, implying that Google was not. She's also gone on to hire several top execs away from the search giant. "Sheryl is persona non grata at Google," another anonymous Googler says. "She steals executives."
2. She impressed Lawrence Summers early on
Sandberg made an early impression on Summers when she took his Public Sector Economics class as a Harvard undergrad. She never spoke in class or raised her hand, but she was the top student. After Sandberg graduated (first in her class in the econ department), Summers hired her to work as his assistant when he served as the chief economist at the World Bank in 1991. Eight years later, he moved up to U.S. Treasury Secretary, and he took the then 29-year-old Sandberg to Washington with him to serve as his chief of staff.
3. Sandberg wasn't always comfortable being a "powerful woman"
In 2005, Fortune editor Pattie Sellers invited her to the magazine's "Most Powerful Women Summit." Sandberg attended but was embarrassed by the title, something Sellers later teased her about. "I told her that most of the women on the Most Powerful Women list — Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Oprah, and many others — had a hangup about the word when we started ranking them in 1998," Sellers recalls. "But they've come around, and she should, too."
4. Gloria Steinem helped with Sandberg's famous TED talk
In December 2010, Sandberg gave a talk at the TEDWomen conference encouraging women to be more proactive in the professional sphere, wait to have kids, and delegate more in their domestic lives. Before giving the speech, she ran it by her friend, Gloria Steinem, who thought it was "terrific." Some of the more than 650,000 people who have viewed the speech online thought so as well, while others consider such sentiments tone-deaf, coming from a Silicon Valley millionaire with a nanny and a household staff. "I think Sandberg totally underestimates the challenge that women face," says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the director of Columbia's Gender and Policy program.
5. She doesn't believe in affirmative action for women
"If you don't believe there is a glass ceiling, there is no need," she says. The backlash against affirmative action programs, even voluntary ones, is too great. "People will think she's not the best person and that job was held open for a woman."