She's been called "the adult in the room" at Facebook.
Since stepping in as chief operating officer in 2008, Sheryl Sandberg is credited with corraling the social media giant's young workforce and helping boost its meager advertising revenue to respectable, grown-up levels.
More recently, Sandberg, who turns 44 next week, authored a book, "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," that's been praised as empowering and attacked as elitist in encouraging women to speak up and advance their careers.
That message will be part of her talk today in Sacramento, where Sandberg is the inaugural speaker in "Women's Voices," a lecture series hosted by the California Legislative Women's Caucus, a bipartisan group of 31 female legislators from the state Senate and Assembly.
Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, chair of the women's caucus, said Sandberg was invited because of her efforts to encourage women to be more assertive about their careers.
"We wanted to raise the level of interest about the challenges women face in the workforce," Lowenthal said, noting an annual UC Davis study that shows women lag far behind their male counterparts in executive posts at California's 400 biggest firms.
Sandberg, married and a Menlo Park mother of two young children, has an estimated worth of $400 million and consistently ranks on Fortune magazine's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. Harvard-educated with an economics degree and an MBA, she spent several years as chief of staff to U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, the former Harvard professor (and later president) who was her mentor.
Prior to her Sacramento appearance, the Facebook exec gave The Sacramento Bee a brief interview by phone. Here's an excerpt:
Silicon Valley is one of the few bright spots in California's economy. If we're going to continue growing our way out of the recession, what kind of jobs tech and non-tech are essential?
Jobs are a critical issue. For Facebook, it's one we think about a lot. We're a very global company with a very California base. Of our 5,500 employees, about 60 percent are in California. As Americans, we worry a lot about jobs going overseas, but this is the inverse.
Not everyone can work in a high-tech company. One of the reasons I love working at Facebook is that we have a profound impact on the economy. There are 18 million small businesses that have set up a Facebook page and a lot of them use it every month.
They're not technical at all, but these small businesses small bakeries, flower shops are enabling jobs and using Facebook to grow their businesses.
Facebook has been squarely in the middle of the debate over privacy controls, both globally and locally. Are you comfortable with the company's privacy policies?
The trust of our users is the basis of our company. We have three principles on privacy: control, transparency and accountability. If I take a picture of the two of us together. I could post it just to my mom or to the whole world. We give you that control and work very hard to make sure users understand it. Privacy laws are important. Our job is to work with the government to protect people.
But on national security, a lot of those initial reports (of how much user data was given to national security agencies) were false. They made it seem the government had some sort of access (to all our accounts). That was unequivocably untrue.
Your book, "Lean In," has its loyal fans but also its share of harsh critics. Did the backlash surprise you?
When you say something controversial, not everyone will agree because you're going against the status quo. People's passions run high. It's a book saying the status quo is not good enough. We're living in a world where every industry from tech to retail to education is run by men. In every single country, 95 percent of the top companies are run by men. There are only about 20 female heads of state out of the hundreds of countries around the world.
Unapologetically, my book says we need more women to lead. We need women at tables where decisions are made. We continue to be underrepresented.
Is this sort of a throwback to the feminist movement of the late '60s?
(Laughing). I was born in 1969. This movement stands on the shoulders of the women who came before us.
Your book urges women to form "empowerment circles" to share ideas, encourage one another, foster negotiating skills, etc. How are they working?
I'm proud of the work women are doing in Lean In circles (found at LeanIn.org). We get posts every single day that they've asked for raises, they got a promotion, they got their partners to do more. They feel more self-confident.
There's been speculation that you're interested in a run for political office. Is that what inspired your visit to the state Capitol?
No. I'm not running for office, but I am excited to continue working for Facebook.
Who: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
What: First lecture in a series launched by the California Legislative Women's Caucus.
When: Today at noon
Where: Closed to the public, but coverage will be provided on Twitter: @CaWomensCaucus; and streamed online at: womenscaucus. legislature.ca.gov.