Sheryl Sandberg and Public Valley Speaking

What do we think of Sheryl Sandberg?  She’s the big COO hoo-ha at Facebook, and she has a new book that is polarizing the public dialogue on “women in the workplace as women in power.”  I admit I don’t know much about the woman, and my initial exposure was reading about her online.  I haven’t read her book, and I’m not interested in picking a fight about her shallow arguments, but what struck me most about her recent PR tornado is how unappealing I find her as a live speaker arguing her points in person.

Here’s some Sandberg background for you from “The Atlantic:”

The biggest wave of critiques against Sandberg so far have come from more traditional and intersectional feminists, and from mommy bloggers. I could rehash the pre-publication backlash to Sandberg, as well as the backlash against the backlash, but the fact of the matter is that all the huffing and puffing about why she’s not organizing janitors or home health-care aides or stay at home moms is largely beside the point — because that’s not what her project is about. Sandberg is an unapologetic capitalist and senior manager who began her career in Washington, D.C.

This is Sandberg in a recent ABC News interview.  Fast-forward to the 2:09 mark to start the interview:

I’ve seen over five interviews with Sandberg over the last week, and in each one, her pretentiousness offends me.  She behaves as if she’s the smartest person in the room who understands an answer that nobody else cares to question.  I’m not sure if her precociousness is just a normal COO virus, or if there’s something else, and odd, going on in her personal life that is seeping out in these cascading, precious, public, interviews.

As I try to move my ear away from her mature, but still sing-song, “Valley Girl” voice and way of speaking, I am immediately alarmed by the story she shares about her seven-year-old son not knowing that a woman “is allowed” to be president.


Why in the world would you share a story about your total and absolute failure as a mother to educate your son?  How is it possible for your son to think a woman is so powerless and feeble that she would not “allowed” to be the President if you are involved in your son’s life on a daily and interactive basis?  That one story undercuts Sandberg’s entire argument about female empowerment and leadership in the workplace because she failed to lead her son at home as a mother first.

Sandberg’s public persona is disquieting.  She seems to love easy answers and likes to invoke feel-good phrases, and it’s hard to share her self-discovered notion that she’s the smartest tool in the shed.  I like people with confidence and I am wild about strong women — but I don’t like anybody who preaches to me or strong-arms me or tries to tell me I’m just too stupid to understand such basic ideas — and Sandberg comes off to me as a condescending know-it-all.

Hey, I love and appreciate difficult people — because I am one! — but you must also be self-aware of how you come off to people in the real world, in real-time, in a real room, and Sandberg just proves how far you can go in an online, virtual, world where people really have no idea who you really are until you open your mouth in person and start speaking.