Kara Swisher

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Facebook’s Sandberg Has Penned “Lean In” — A Book on Women and Leadership — Set for 2013 Publication

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has written a book on challenges facing women in the workplace that is expected to be published next year by Knopf.

Titled “Lean In,” the book is not a memoir, but a “call to action” with a lot of research and data, laced with anecdotes of the experience of one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile female executives and also many other women.

“I believe that the world would be a better place if half our institutions were run by women, and half our homes were run by men,” said Sandberg in an email to me earlier this week. “The book contains practical advice for women — and the men who want to help them — on how to lean in and close the gap.”

Juggling leadership roles and family has been a central topic of Sandberg’s in numerous speeches she has given in recent years.

Among the key themes she has outlined — most prominently in a TEDTalk in 2010, which is embedded below — is the lack of progress for women in top positions and the loss to society when half the population holds only one-fifth of the top jobs across key industries.

The title comes from her advice in these speeches for women to lean in to their work rather than lean back, as many tend to do for a variety of reasons at key points in their careers.

In the speeches, Sandberg — who worked in a high-ranking job at Google and also did a stint in government at the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration — also advised women not to “leave before you leave” a job.

In one speech, she said:

“So, my heartfelt message is: Don’t leave before you leave. Don’t lean back, lean in. Keep your foot on the gas pedal until the day you have to make a decision. That’s the only way to ensure you even have a decision to make.”

The book’s publication, largely due to Sandberg’s prominence, is likely to reignite a heated debate over the longstanding issue about women and work. That includes in tech, where there are still a paucity of female CEOs, board members and venture capitalists.

Speaking of debate, publishing such a book — or being seen as doing anything not related directly to Facebook’s business — at such a dicey time for the company is sure to attract some negative attention for Sandberg and possibly Facebook.

That’s especially true after its botched public offering, which has been followed by a deep drop in the stock to half its initial IPO price and worries about its core business growth.

To be fair, the ideas in “Lean In” have been developed over many years and Sandberg has long noted that the discussion of these issues is too important to wait.

Sandberg said she finished the book well before Facebook’s recent tumultuous IPO and on her own time.

She added that she would eventually promote it on her own vacation time, too, and that all her profits will go to charities that support women. But Sandberg did not volunteer the advance she got paid for “Lean In.”

Along with that possible (and inevitable) why-aren’t-you-fixing-the-stock criticism, penning such a book might also further encourage persistent rumors that Sandberg will eventually leave Facebook, including to pursue a political office.

Not true, said Sandberg, who said firmly that she plans to stay put at Facebook as the No. 2 exec to co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He has apparently known about the book project since its beginning and has encouraged it.

To complete the book — which is now being edited — Sandberg worked with a full-time writer, Nell Scovell, as well as a researcher, Marianne Cooper.

Scovell, a journalist and longtime television writer in Hollywood, started helping Sandberg with her speeches about two years ago. Cooper is a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University and is the author of the forthcoming University of California Press book, “Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times.”

Until the book is out, here’s a taste of what Sandberg has had to say so far on women and leadership at both her TEDTalk in December of 2010 and also at a commencement speech at Barnard College last May:


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