Her book may have sparked some debate, but the message Sheryl Sandberg delivered at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre was embraced by an enthusiastic audience of future business leaders.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, who graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Business School, returned to her alma mater to promote her Lean In initiative and her New York Times Best Seller of the same name. Confessing her own feelings of insecurity to the audience, Sandberg related her own experience as a newly-admitted student sitting in Sanders Theatre just two decades before. “Part of me is still the girl that sat in this auditorium and walked out saying, ‘I don’t belong here,’” she recalled.
Sandberg’s campaign to support women’s success is the topic of her recently published book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, as well as the focus of Leanin.org, a global initiative connecting people who encourage women to pursue and achieve their goals. According to the COO, only 14 percent of executive-level jobs and 7 percent of corporate board positions in America are held by women.
The Harvard COOP, Harvard University’s official bookstore, knew that Sandberg’s advice book would be a big deal in the store. “We knew that her book would strike a lot of interest in our store because she is an alumna of Harvard, so as soon as we heard that she would be speaking on campus, we reached out to the school sponsor to see if we could help,” says Harvard COOP Tradebook Manager Nancie Scheirer. “They agreed and we set to work preparing for the event.”
Sponsored by Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business (HUWIB), an organization that “seeks to empower a dynamic group of enterprising young women by uniting them through business education and experience,” Sandberg’s message was heard by like-minded students who filled the auditorium. The capacity crowd was comprised of female students, Harvard University’s President Drew Gilpin Faust, Sandberg’s parents, and several of her high school and college friends.
Speaking at three different venues that day, Sandberg gave a thirty-minute presentation, followed by 45 minutes of questions and answers at the Harvard event. “Because her schedule was so tight, she couldn’t sit and sign copies after her talk,” explains Scheirer. “So, we worked with the publisher to have pre-signed copies available at the event. Because many high-profile authors appear at Harvard, we have great working relationships with publishers, so planning these events is never a problem.” The book has been especially popular on campus, selling almost 500 copies of Lean In since it was released in March. Sandberg’s book has reached the top of the New York Times Best Seller list and has sold over 275,000 copies.