Oct 10, 2013 03:04 PM

Gaining on the Gap


A picture of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, was posted September 10 on the website of the State Council Information Office, which manages Internet affairs.

Along with a two-paragraph article was the photo of blue-suited Sandberg standing beside a smiling Cai Mingzhao, the director of the information office.  Facebook is blocked in mainland China.

Sandberg was in China promoting her book, "Lean In,"a best seller in the U.S. detailing her journey as a woman in a male-dominated business world. In an exclusive interview with Caixin on September 11, Sandberg talked about big data, e-commerce platforms, and Google, for which she was previously vice president of global online sales and operations before leaving for Facebook. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Caixin: What's the question you were most frequently asked about the book? Are you tired of people asking about how you balance your personal career and your family life?

Sheryl Sandberg: Probably the question I get asked the most is why did I write the book? Why would I speak out since I'm a businessperson; why would I speak out on women?

To your question on am I fed up or frustrated by people asking me how you do it all and never asking men – yes, because that's what happens. I wrote about it in my book - Tina Fey did a whole promotion for a movie with co-star Steve Carell. They both have full time jobs, they both are in the movie, they both have children – she said at every single stop she was asked: 'how do you do it all?' He was never asked. As a female executive, I am asked that question every time and men are never asked. That's part of why I wrote the book.

Which company do you think is more competitive, Google or Facebook?

Sandberg: I think Google and Facebook are just very fundamentally different companies.

Google is very algorithmically based. If Google asks a question, they go to the wisdom of crowds. "What are the most people looking at? Where are the most links to a website?" Facebook is much more a shift to the wisdom of friends. On Facebook you ask the question: "What are the people who I am connected to doing today and you get that answer." So a very different mindset.

What is your lifetime dream? When did you have a clear map to realize it?

Sandberg: I think my goal is equality. It is a world where boys and girls, men and women have equal opportunity and equal responsibility both in the workplace and at home.

So did you have a sense of gender from a very early time?

Sandberg: Yeah, I don't know if I was focused on it – it may be my dream now. When I came into the workforce, I thought it would all work out. I knew that the people were half men half women but I looked and only saw men ahead of me. I thought that was based on historical discrimination and would change. But I have now been in the workforce for 22 years and it is not changing. It's really not changing at all, so that why I wrote the book.

What is your opinion on big data? Is it a popular term in Facebook office?

Sandberg: No, it's not a very popular term. I think it's mainly used by people outside of the industry and we don't use that term.

Do you ever think of expanding to e-commerce platforms like China's Alibaba?

Sandberg: Facebook does not do e-commerce. We do not sell a product. We provide services to people and we have advertising.

Do you intend to expand into that area?

Sandberg: I don't think we need to. I think the advertising model works very, very well for us.

In the last month Facebook's stock price rebounded to the IPO levels; you must be very pleased with that.

Sandberg: When you're running a public company, some of the best advice anyone can give you is: "Don't worry about the stock price; worry about the business." So I worry a lot about our clients, our revenue, how much value we add to the relationships we have, how much users enjoy using Facebook – I don't focus on the stock price.

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