November 2013

Capstone October 2012 Howard University  

Facebook’s COO Launches Campus Initiative at Howard

By Megan Sims, junior, School of Communications; intern, Office of University Communications
Sandberg’s new initiative will focus on leadership, mentoring and empowering young women. (Justin D. Knight)

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, introduced her new Lean In campus initiative at Howard, which focuses on leadership, mentoring and empowering young women. The initiative expands on some of the principles that Sandberg wrote about this year in her book—Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead—and from her website, and encourages students to establish support groups, or “Lean In” circles, on campus.

“One of the most important things that we have to understand is that no one does it alone. Lots of data tells us how important peers can be,” she said. “We can mentor each other.” "It is your leadership that will matter for our country and our world’s future.”

Sandberg brought that message to the School of Business auditorium last month, where she shared personal experiences of gender discrimination and how she succeeded at overcoming barriers. She also took aim at the need for increased equality in corporate leadership.

“There are people at tables where decisions are being made every day,” she said.  “And at those tables where the decisions are made women are sorely underrepresented, as well as men and women of color, and that means our voices are not being heard.”

She continued: “When we address bias openly and honestly, we can understand it, we can change it and we can get more inclusive leadership. For leadership to work, that leadership needs to be more inclusive.”

The launch of the program delighted students like Chinazu Ejiofor, a sophomore business management major. “My goal in life is to empower women,” Ejiofor said.  “And [it gave me hope] to see someone of her stature still have time to reach back and help us to see the potential we have as women.”

Sandberg has also served as vice president of global online sales and operations for Google and as chief of staff for the U.S. Treasury under the Clinton Administration. She became the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board of directors and is ranked sixth as one of Forbes Most Powerful Women.

Sandberg pointed out to the audience that there were big challenges in the world that would take big reforms to change, but she believed that every student in attendance would be a future leader.

“To have a better economy, better education and happier homes, that leadership needs to be inclusive,” Sandberg said. “It is your leadership that will matter for our country and our world’s future.”

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