Sheryl Sandberg brings ‘Lean In’ message to California’s women lawmakers

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg delivers a speech at Global Women Leadership Summit in Tokyo in July. Sandberg addressed California's female legislators Wednesday.
(Shizuo Kambayashi / Associated Press)
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SACRAMENTO -- Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg preached her gospel of “leaning in” to California’s female lawmakers Wednesday, saying that having more women in government is key to advancing gender equality.

Sandberg, whose book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” looks at the dearth of women leaders in the corporate world, noted in a speech to the California Women’s Legislative Caucus that there was a similar lack of female leaders in the political sphere.

“How grateful I am for the women here who have run for office, who are serving ... because you inspire women all over the world and the state,” Sandberg said. “They look at you and they know it’s possible.”


Sandberg, who is Facebook’s chief operating officer, urged attendees not to shy away from their gender, but instead use it to help guide policy decisions.

“I spent most of my career in business not saying the word ‘woman.’ Because if you say the word ‘woman’ in a business context, and often in a political context, the person on the other side of the table thinks you’re about to sue them or ask for special treatment, right?” Sandberg asked, eliciting a few murmurs of agreement in the audience. Instead, she told attendees to “talk about gender, talk about the biases we all hold” in order to bring about change.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said Sandberg’s address inspired her to ponder “the ways legislatively or in terms of public policy where we can really do more to help women get into that workforce and get into leadership positions.”

Sandberg had a full morning in Sacramento: She also visited with the Latino Caucus and with Gov. Jerry Brown (and his dog Sutter, as Brown’s wife Anne Gust documented on Twitter).

The women’s caucus consists of 32 members from both houses and both political parties. Sandberg’s address kicks off a Women’s Voices speakers series sponsored by the caucus, which is angling for more visibility in the Capitol.

“Frankly, up until this year, the women’s caucus has always taken a backseat to some of the other caucuses, which have wonderful energy and do good things,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), who chairs the caucus.


“So for us, as women legislators, we need to stand up and take our rightful place in the Capitol,” she said. “We need to hire more women on our staffs, we need to bring in young women as interns. We don’t have equality here in the Capitol.”


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Twitter: @melmason