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Sheryl Sandberg Named Class Day Speaker
Sheryl Sandberg ’91, M.B.A. ’95, a best-selling author, chief operating officer of Facebook, and founder of LeanIn.Org, will be the principal guest speaker for seniors celebrating Class Day in Tercentenary Theatre on May 28, Harvard College officials have announced.
“Sheryl Sandberg’s work and advocacy have sparked valuable discussions within our class and around campus, especially as we look forward to entering the professional world,” class marshal Roland Yang ’14 said in a press release. “Her ideas and example challenge us to think and act critically as soon-to-be graduates.”
Sandberg became a senior official in the U.S. Department of the Treasury not long after earning her degree from Harvard Business School (HBS). She joined Google Inc. in 2001, becoming the company’s vice president of global online sales and operations, and in 2008 became the chief operating officer at Facebook. Her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead—which has garnered much attention and famously urges women to combat sexism at work and to “lean in” to their careers—inspired LeanIn.Org, an organization “committed to offering women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals.”
At the Business School’s Class Day in 2012, Sandberg urged graduates to practice honesty and open communication—not a norm in most workplaces. “A good leader recognizes that most people feel uncomfortable challenging authority,” she said, and actively solicits feedback instead of waiting for it to arrive.
As the keynote speaker at the W50 Summit in 2013 (a two-day conference celebrating 50 years of women in the M.B.A. program at HBS), Sandberg asked a group of about 800 alumnae gathered in Burden Hall to stand if they had ever spoken about wanting to become CEO of their own companies. Almost no one did.
“I’m here today to do one thing: to give every woman in this audience not just the permission, but the encouragement to stand up next time that question is asked,” she said. “Not just to be CEO of the company you are in, but to do anything you might not think you can do…anything you might be afraid to do. I want to do that for the men in this room today as well, but I want to do it especially for the women, because the blunt truth is, men still rule the world.”