Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, is Kirsty Young's castaway. She worked for Google at the beginning of the tech boom before joining Facebook in 2008. Raised in Miami Beach, Florida, she studied economics at Harvard. She became chief of staff for Larry Summers, Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, before moving to Silicon Valley.
Sheryl published her first book called Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead in 2013 which tried to answer the question why so few women reach the top echelons of their professions. In 2015, her husband of eleven years and father of their two children, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly while they were on holiday. In her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, she describes her struggles in dealing with this sudden loss.
Producer: Cathy Drysdale.


00:00:00this is the BBC hello on Cristian thank you for downloading this podcast of desert island discs from BBC radio four for rights reasons the music choices are shorter than in the radio broadcast for more information about the program please visit BBC dot co dot UK slash radio for
00:00:39my cost with this week is Sheryl Sandberg she runs Facebook the most popular social network in the world and has made her name and her fortune transforming that company into a four hundred and thirty two billion dollar business she's an author to win back in twenty thirteen her
00:00:56bestselling book lean then was a how to Bible for females interested in succeeding chipping in women to strive for more power and more influence it was full of handy hints for beyond the boardroom to including this little gem you can date whoever you want but you should marry
00:01:12the nerds in the good guys before Facebook she had a big job at Google and before that she was chief of staff at the US treasury indeed her life seem characterized by an endless upward trajectory until twenty fifteen when she suffered a great personal tragedy her forty seven
00:01:30year old husband and the father to her two young children collapsed suddenly and died of a heart attack she says of that time lean in I could barely stand up and so welcome show Sandburg and you recommend in this book that you've just written that when somebody has
00:01:47suffered a profound life shifting tragedy you should not say to them how are you but rather how are you today so heavy today I'm excited to be here music's important music was very important to Dave it's very important to me and I think the songs that we think
00:02:04of as important in our lives say something pretty profound about us that's how I am today surprised I was surprised at how much you leave yourself and the very talking an awful experience you went through and suddenly losing day if your husband it's an experience common to many
00:02:22but most people are not as well known as you of course and most people do not to write a book about his wife he decided to leave it open to the world when I lost stave it wasn't just the overwhelming grief and sadness but what happened in the
00:02:36kind of days and weeks that followed was this profound sense of isolation I felt like people were looking at me like I was a ghost and I felt so isolated and so alone that I decided to write what I would write as a Facebook post if I were
00:02:51gonna be honest about how I felt to the world's ever it really for myself I thought it's not going to get worse and maybe it might get better and so I hit post and I was shocked at how probably was right it was reported on the nightly news
00:03:05but it actually really helped you didn't bring Dave back and it didn't take away the grief but it took away the feeling that I was alone because people started talking to me again people started saying how are you today and it wasn't a long time from then until
00:03:22I decided to actually write a book but I think the experience of sharing and feeling less isolated started me down the past option be you are chief operating officer of Facebook mark Zuckerberg of course is your boss it was described in the beginning as a utility I imagine
00:03:41you wouldn't use that word anymore well now we talk about our mission is building community and in some ways what we do is similar to what I did with that post which is we bring people closer together and I'm not naive I know that every post is not
00:03:54about peace love and kindness I know that every post doesn't make people feel good but I think that for a lot of people being able to share brings us closer and in my own view the world has never needed it more so let us turn then national center
00:04:10to the music and and tell me a little bit about this first choice and and whites on your list well beyond say run the world's and the answer is girls a few years ago she did the ban bossy campaign with me and if you ask crowds of people
00:04:24man raise your hand if you've been called bossy as a little boy two hands go up women raise your hand if you are called bossy as a little girl every hand goes up and that's because no matter what the cultural differences are for women all over the world
00:04:39all over the world we expect mentally and women to do for others and so beyond his message that women can run the world that women should run the world her message that she is the class I think is super important for not just women but little girls and
00:04:54boys to hear in fact we now well that was when the world brackets girls making shouldn't have the girls in the brackets given what you've just said Johnson but that was of course be unceasing there and you recently met our home secretary ember wrought according to reports we
00:05:40gonna discuss what's we all continue to tackle the online aspect of terrorism what did you talk to them about about was a great meeting with your home secretary because we are very aligned in articles which is we want to make sure all of us do our part to
00:05:56stop terrorism and so our fiscal policies are very clear there's absolutely no place for terrorism hate calls for violence of any kind our goal is to not just pull it off Facebook but use artificial intelligence and technology to get it before it's even upload it working in collaboration
00:06:14with the other tech companies now so if a video by a terrorist is upload it to any of our platforms we are able to fingerprint it for all the others so that they can't move from platform to platform you yourself have said in the statement of the algorithms
00:06:28can only do so much for the resources that Facebook is putting in it to human beings not just the algorithms that's right technology is a very important part of the puzzle but context matters so if someone puts up an ISIS flag are they doing it to recruit are
00:06:43they doing it to condemn we absolutely don't allow the first but we want the second because spreading those messages of condemning hate are so important so we have about forty five hundred people in our community operations working around the world in many languages twenty four hours and this
00:06:59year alone we're gonna hire another three thousand and we've worked with over five hundred NGOs around the world to develop the messages that go against terrorist recruitment that are the messages of tolerance and Facebook of course I should remind listeners owns what sap a service that enables ends
00:07:15and encryption the problem of course is that if we have terrorists communicating with each other the government needs to know what these people are up to are you willing to ends the encryption in order that government agencies can get vital information to understand better how do these people
00:07:33are going about their dastardly business well the goal for government is to get as much information as possible and so when there are message services like what's happened are encrypted the message itself is encrypted but the meditator is not meaning that you send me a message we don't
00:07:50know what that message has but we know you contacted me if people move off those encrypted services to go to encrypted services in countries that won't share the meta data the government actually has less information out more and so as technology allows these are complicated conversations were in
00:08:06close communication working through the issues all around the world that didn't sound like a new to me that sounded like this may be something you you might be willing to move on these are so complicated and so much and there's so much work to do but the goal
00:08:19is very clear our goal is to make sure not only is there no terrorism on Facebook no violence but that we do our part as part of the broader society to work with governments with NGOs with counter speech with people who are going against terrorism all doing our
00:08:36part to make sure that we have a peaceful world because everyone deserves that Sheryl Sandberg let's listen to second disk then why is this piece of music important to you well the Dixie chicks remake of landslide first of all it's just a beautiful song right time makes you
00:08:52bolder children get older I'm getting older tale I've always thought about the passage of time and this is a great female voices singing a song that was sung by a great female like you didn't think it could get better but it almost dead that was sixty six land
00:09:42slide shows hundred every impression that I get when reading about your family is that they were very strong women in its just tell me a little bit about the significant women in some black family that starts my grandmother I she grew up very poor her parents got divorced
00:09:57which is highly unusual she worked as a maid as a very young child in other people's homes when she was in high school she was pulled out of school to help support the family she spent days selling little flowers on bras that she could south and was a
00:10:11high school teacher forced her parents to put her back into school and she graduated she went to Berkeley where I gave the commencement speech a few years ago and just felt this overwhelming connection to me she's no longer alive but but to my grandma and she was a
00:10:26huge influence in my life and your mother tell me about her my mother is the kindest person I've ever met you know she's the person who I remember into into the Broadway play I forget what it was called but it was a one woman show about cancer this
00:10:40woman has cancer and that's the show and somehow the and the whole auditorium is is gone except we are still sitting there and my mother is comforting the strangers with cancer who are crying out literally crying on her shoulder that's my mother was there a very strong sense
00:10:54around the kitchen table having dinner together that there had to be kind of civil engagement beyond that the family was one thing but actually the tentacles of the family must reach out into the wider community yes I was raised to believe that you do for others outside yourself
00:11:11my father was a doctor people who are trying to just make money those were very much against the family values and my parents were very involved with you know Soviet Jewry anyone who's speaking out against the Soviet Union discriminate against because they were Jewish or because of other
00:11:27faiths they worked hard to try to get them out they went into the Soviet Union they were arrested by the KGB kicked out so I grew up knowing how to go to the store and buy bars of white chocolate that looked like soap because prisoners weren't allowed to
00:11:42get food but they were allowed to get soap growing up you were the eldest of three and at your wedding to Dave I'm your sister brother Meade has made a speech about you in the sense that we were Sheryl's first employees for more than ten years she too
00:11:55because under her wing and what doesn't shape I'm of course you're fundamentally in involved in this whole dialogue of how do we make leaders hide we encourage people to be leaders but do you think there is potentially something intrinsic in a person that means that they've sort of
00:12:12got in them I think sometimes that's true and certainly there are leaders who are just born but I think leadership is pride we need leaders of all types and I really believe leadership is something we can develop in anyone what I really believe is that we start telling
00:12:28little girls not to lead at very young ages and we start telling little boys to lead at very young ages and that's a mistake I believe everyone has inside them the ability to lead and we should let people choose that not based on gender but on who they
00:12:42are and who they want to be this was the music channel is your sense this is queen you're my best friend I had and lucky in so many ways but maybe one of the luckiest as I've had a group of best friends since I was quite young we
00:12:57call each other the girls they have been there for me through my first marriage and divorce the birth of both my children they were there when Dave was buried a couple weeks after Dave died when I just can't take it I just sent an email someone come they
00:13:12have jobs one of them has five kids they are busy but I knew that they weren't going to fight over who wasn't coming they were gonna fight about who would and they're always there and to this date my phone rang when any of the six of them calls
00:13:27is the song we we knew that this friend shells under the red economics at Harvard you've mentioned struggling with what you call self died throughout your time in college I find that I don't disbelieve you but I'm astonished tell me more about her well we know that women
00:14:17more than men suffer from the imposter syndrome and systematically underestimate their own performance and so I definitely struggled with self doubt and writing lean in and building the leaning organization actually really help me because I studied self confidence and I understood how to build up other peoples and
00:14:36I spent so much time telling other women to feel more self confident I learned it myself so when you were at college how did you lack of self confidence manifest itself because when I look at your CV and like she was aiming high so she should have but
00:14:49she was in high you know every test I thought I was going to fail when I did well I thought I had fooled them I didn't feel like I earned it and owned it and it wasn't until much later I felt that and actually learning that women were
00:15:02under estimating themselves helped me because I said I don't wanna be underestimated because I'm a woman I don't want to underestimate myself full of this kind of course seem like something of a reunified argument but it is applicable to women in their everyday lives whether they are stacking
00:15:15shelves of their sales supervisor or they're working from home because when it comes to things like performance review if women expect that they are less capable than they are less likely to see I deserve the pay rise or I deserve the next job would that be a fair
00:15:29estimation absolutely right and we know that when we don't ask we don't get there's a circle in Dublin there are eight of them in the circle the first one asked for raising got it the second one asked for raising got it all eight of them did but they
00:15:44practiced with each other here's what I'm gonna say to my bosses that can work now that doesn't mean that everyone can negotiate further and raise we need to start paying women well and we need the public policy in the corporate policy to get there but certainly women applying
00:15:58for jobs at the same rate as men and women from running for office at the same rate as men that's got to be part of the answer time for someone using Cheryl let's go to your fourth disc of the morning Hamilton is just magnificent in every way and
00:16:12this is it's been a huge hit on board was about to open in London it is unbelievable you'll be back as the comic relief but a great song my daughter addition for his will play this year and this was her audition song and she doesn't belted out and
00:16:27she did so well that she got past as the part of the genie in Aladdin which is one of the all time great singing roles but I will never hear the song without picturing her standing there and just belting it out you'll be better soon you'll see you
00:16:43remember you time will tell and and show I this that was you be back from the original constituting of the musical Hamilton with music and lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda it was performed there by Jonathan Groff you've described your parents Rosenberg as as being even when Susie ask
00:17:25about you finding a husband than achieving academic success now you mentioned that you were you had a short marriage and divorce pretty early on you were in your mid to early to mid twenties I'm not necessarily surprised that your parents felt that way given the generation that they
00:17:40came from a very surprised you went along with it why did you choose to accept that well I shouldn't have and it did feel like a big failure I felt like I was wearing a big scarlet letter D. on my chest I mean I was twenty five and
00:17:53I was divorced my first husband was a wonderful man still is were friends I was just too young I think that was when I started learning to think for myself that I was gonna have to find my own way I think that was when I was starting to
00:18:09understand what I wanted to do in life understand the kind of relationship I wanted and I to get married again for ten years does two thousand for the United a lot of growing up to do so you may Dave in two thousand four and I'm guessing then he
00:18:24was a nerd and a good guy and he would not want to be called a nerd but I think the truth was he knows that the housing level was an attack hit a big thing he did the job get started this great company called launch which was the
00:18:37first online music service he was a great lover of music he'd work to Capitol Records he really wanted to transform the music industry but yes he was an art he was a smart loving just wonderful man and this tech world that you both ended up in a as
00:18:56it was just beginning to bloom and be hugely significant before that you'd worked at the World Bank you've done an MBA you'd work for president Clinton's treasury secretary Larry summers then you moved on to Silicon Valley and you joined Google when it was in its absolute infancy was
00:19:11only of two thousand one Google would have been too what two three years as a result of the time to what extent when you'd go aboard the rocket ship of Silicon Valley that point did you think I'm in on something big here well I've been working in the
00:19:25US government at our treasury department and you know that was one of the first happen was happening and what I saw where companies really trying to make a difference I met Eric Schmidt he introduced me Larry page and Sergey Brin and cook was trying to organize the world's
00:19:41information you work and go to the library anymore I've tried to explain to my children what an encyclopedia is that you would have every question answered immediately they don't even understand it you know the numbers Facebook and when I met mark Facebook was trying to give people individual
00:19:58identity online I mean I'm old enough to remember when we were all anonymous online the idea of putting your real self your real face a real friendships online was completely new and I was convinced that it was gonna make people understand each other better let's have some music
00:20:15shows on but we're gonna listen to your faith tell me about this so this is sweet baby James by James Taylor so I love James Taylor our son was our first born and for some reason we started putting on music to put him to sleep as a very
00:20:27young child and I would say for the first forty five years of his life he only went to sleep at that desk so we once left that diskette a friend's house over an hour away and we got back in the car with the engine and drove to get
00:20:39that desk and what was so funny is when our son was about three eight you would hear him saying you know ill winds are funny for three year old thinking about women and glasses of beer he would not go to sleep without the song rises thinking and then
00:20:59and is says he's he sings out a song which is and they someone good night the and rock that was James Taylor and sweet baby James and Sheryl Sandberg I spoke in the introduction then about your husband Dave dying suddenly at the age of forty seven from heart
00:21:39attack keep going to the gym you run out of a we can break it down to the gym to use the wrong machine and you find him eastern with subheadings we could fall into the floor because he had a massive cardiac arrest it's clear that you received an
00:21:52enormous amount of support from friends and family he also writes about somebody almost kind of shows in two across the atrium in your work space I'm sorry for your loss you know you say you were almost sort of surrounded at every turn at times by platitudes they thought
00:22:08we were being sense to but in fact they were being highly insensitive isn't a very finely calibrated sings of tuning in to where somebody isn't trying to be supportive but not others smother them with cliches or so to disregard their pain it is it's a hard thing to
00:22:22do but you get there by focusing on what's real and acknowledging the pain so before I lost Dave I got this wrong if a friend of mine a cancer and many friends of mine have sadly had cancer I would say I know you're gonna be okay now I
00:22:36know the voice in their heads saying how do you know now I say I know you don't know if you're going to be okay and neither do I but you will not go through this alone I will be there with you we can show up for each other
00:22:50it's not gonna make cancer go away it's not can make Tesco away but it is going to keep us from being isolated where did you begin with your children how did you start making the new life my biggest fear and Dave died is that my kids would be
00:23:08okay I called Mindy one of the girls she had lost her mother when we were thirteen screaming from the hospital when Dave died tell me my kids are going to be okay tell me my kids are gonna be okay she's like scream back Cheryl I don't know what
00:23:24you're talking about and I was kind of able to check out Dave's site are my kids going to be okay and you know she was a tremendous source of inspiration because her mother died by suicide we were so young and I lived through it with her and she's
00:23:39not just okay she is remarkable she is one of the most loving giving optimistic people I've ever met and I turned to Adam and said what Adam was my psychologist friend to eventually wrote this book with what do I do to make my kids okay and he had
00:23:55a lot of good advice and I try to make it okay for them to grieve we still talk about Dave we talk about Dave all the time I tried never to sugar coat it I always say to this day I miss them too it's horrible this happen to
00:24:13us but it's not our fault it's not your fault and Daddy would want you to be happy because at the end of this it is about not just for me but for everyone who's suffering it's about taking back joy because my kids deserve joy they do not deserve
00:24:33to feel unhappy or feel guilty for the rest of their lives because they lost their father a bunch of months after Dave died my brother in law his only brother rob is so amazing called me and said all they've ever wanted was for you and your children to
00:24:47be happy don't take that away from him in death let's take a break so sunburnt we can hear some of your musical choices now when you're six tell me about why this is important to you tell me what you've just because this line may be the most important
00:25:06line to me that was ever son a long December and there's reason to the believe maybe this year will be better than the last this that was kind increases and the lone December initial Sandburg how did you experience who is the woman that you are today compared with
00:26:07the woman that you were five six seven years ago changed the way you lead to change the way you work change the messages you give to those many thousands of people who are within your organization and so different I'm Sattar I didn't know anyone could cried this much
00:26:25I asked my sister how is it possible she's a doctor she said of the majority of your body is water I understand where all the tears as I don't drink the water how is this possible and she explained it but it worked it changed me too because what
00:26:39I used to do and I still believe in it anytime anything was going wrong as I was focused on giving people a break do you need time off people need the time off they need to grieve and recover and take care of family members on themselves but they
00:26:53also need to be built back up and so mark I don't even know how he knew to do this might fifteen year younger boss mark Zuckerberg said to me not just you need time off he said that but he said but I'm glad you're here because you made
00:27:06an important point today the days when I felt like all I could do a show up in the office for a few hours and cry hearing that was so helpful so now I offer people time off I say can we take that project off people when they want
00:27:19to be at work and sometimes for me the memories of Dave are everywhere but they're the worst at home by far so for me when I can getting out of the house and having something else to do that was a lifeline and I've heard that from many people
00:27:32who have lost spouses and children and for those people saying to them we still want you know pressure but do you want this project because I still believe in you that's so important and we help others by rebuilding them helping them build their self confidence back up I
00:27:47still believe in you as a colleague I still believe in you as a friend laughter my friend knows go Val who wrote lenient with me was an editor of this book she's a comedy writer she stood up in her mother's funeral she has four siblings with an envelope
00:28:02and said I have in this envelope the name of mom's favorite child at the funeral and that's hysterical it is and a little horrifying right we always make jokes at funerals but now I understand why because in that moment and that laughter we take control away from the
00:28:21darkness from the death and we bring it back to the light and we say that we can laugh and we can help each other laugh tell me about your next piece of music chosen for what we can hear us to this is out in John I'm still standing
00:28:36I'm often asked if I could meet anyone in the world who would I meet I would meet Elton John I've loved his music my whole life and he decided to do a concert series in Las Vegas and right away Dave knew how much I loved him Dave got
00:28:49tickets for me in a coma for friends and since we got our tickets earlier in the front and he did this thing at concert where the first bunch of rose to go on the stage and dance and so I got to dance without John on the stage when
00:29:02his plane can't wasn't dancing with the fat and this is the ultimate resilience on I'm still standing that was in June and I'm still standing Sheryl Sandberg you've used some very it it is it strikes me as rather brilliantly Americans thing to do you can very straightforward state
00:29:42you talk openly you talked with a lot of emotion but there's very little to kind of self pity there do you feel that dear you planned bits of your life anymore because of course one of the things that you in common with many people who are believed to
00:29:55have is is is you are robbed of your imagined future do you dare to single in ten years time I'd like to be or not doing this huge job anymore I'd like to be retired on a beach in Mexico or I'd like to be building a new family
00:30:08with somebody else do you dare to dream the next part of your life maybe not yet but I'd like to my children are in summer camp right now and they're gonna for weeks and that's been hard because I remembered David I for years talked about we both went
00:30:29to camp and loved it they'll go to camp and will travel and well the thing is I don't know if I'm at a place where I can see ten years out the way I could with Steve because that was Dave was the plan in the early days and
00:30:44months and weeks after Dave died I thought it would never get better I now know it does and can not in every situation not on one time frame but if we believe it can and we help each other we do not leave people alone it can and I
00:31:02want some good to come from Dave's stuff because without some meaning without some good all there is is death and darkness and Dave Schoen too brightly for that to be the legacy the legacy has to be life and hope and joy because that's who he was tell me
00:31:22what you each piece of music Johnsonburg wouldn't listen to finally today well this is one by you to Dave was a massive you to face we went to lots of those concerts together and this was always our favorite song it's a perfect song to end on this is
00:31:48those is what when it's that was sent you two and one show some break it is the face of it because to me and has been for seventy five years they are leaving to be all on their own on a desert island and it strikes me that listening
00:32:36to you talk about communities and trying to be of help to people through university that actually being you know you leave this huge company along with mark Zuckerberg being on your own on a desert island that will be some sort of hell for you surely I think that
00:32:51would be very hard for anyone but I don't think I would enjoy it that much I mean even for a couple hours to read a book a little peace and quiet would be nice but I think I actually being cast away would be quite difficult aside from these
00:33:03a piece of music I I give all castaways the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible your let's say one other book with you what other book will you SP my favorite book of all time is a wrinkle in time I love the triumph flight you consider sake
00:33:19which will give you that book your load as well along with the books in the music a luxury item what she was going to be I was either going to take fuzzy socks what kind of bad soaks into love those acts like my feet are always cold but
00:33:31I think in the end that doesn't work so well on a desert island saw the sandal get your toes and stuff I think so I think I would take a journal if I were on a desert island with nothing to do and no one to talk to and
00:33:41no community rating would be what I would do okay which will give you that if you had to run to save just one of these discs from the waves which one would it be one detail it's yours shells and books thank you very much for listening to your
00:33:56desert island discs thank you for having me you've been listening to a diamond from the BBC you'll find more information on the radio for website BBC dot co dot UK slash radio for this is the BBC

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