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Facebook finally appoints a woman to its board – five things you never knew about Sheryl Sandberg

Engel Schmidl /

Shock horror – Facebook, the company that is attempting to redefine expectations of privacy in the 21st century and make the world a more connected place, has apparently now discovered women exist and they can work on corporate boards.

Yesterday, the company announced long-time chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg will take a seat on the board, along with Mark Zuckerberg himself, and the rest of the men – including PayPal founder and investor Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen and James Breyer.

Sandberg has become something of an example for executive women in Silicon Valley, having taken the position in order to help Facebook transform from a fledgling start-up into a serious corporate player.

And despite the company’s disappointing initial public offering, she’s largely succeeded – and managed to win her way onto several lists of important or prominent people, including Fortune‘s “Most Powerful Women in Business”.

“Sheryl has been my partner in running Facebook and has been central to our growth and success over the years,” Zuckerberg said in a statement last night.

“Her understanding of our mission and long-term opportunity, and her experience both at Facebook and on public company boards makes her a natural fit for our board.”

It’s an appointment long deserved. But how much do you actually know about Facebook’s latest board appointee?

Here are five quick facts you should know about Sandberg as she prepares for her latest role:

1. This isn’t her first board appointment

Sandberg may be new to Facebook’s board, but she certainly isn’t new to the concept. She’s already been appointed to the boards of Disney, Starbucks, and also serves on the boards for the Brookings Institution and the Ad Council, along with Women for Women International.

2. She almost chose the Washington Post over Facebook

Sandberg started at Google in 2001 and worked as the company’s vice president of global online sales and operations until 2008, when Zuckerberg lured her away – but she was also considering a job at the Washington Post company at the time.

But Zuckerberg and Sandberg shared emails, and many, many dinners at the Flea Street Café, where he eventually persuaded her to join the company with what Sandberg said were very philosophical conversations.

“It was like dating,” says Dave Goldberg, Sandberg’s husband and the chief executive of the online company SurveyMonkey. Sandberg says they asked each other, “What do you believe? What do you care about? What’s the mission? It was very philosophical,” she told the New Yorker.

3. She leaves work early to spend time with her family

This is actually one of the best-known facts about Sandberg – she puts her family first. She makes a point of leaving work at 5.30pm every day so she can spend time with her children. And she’s been doing that for years too, ever since her days at Google.

In the debate over how women should juggle a career and their families, Sandberg has been portrayed as a role model. After concealing why she was leaving work at 5.30pm earlier in her career she’s now adamant women in the workforce shouldn’t be shy about what they’re doing when they leave work.

If need be, they can always take part in a phone call or meeting over Skype later on at night. Of course, Sandberg says it means getting up earlier, or staying late. But that doesn’t change the fact she’s passionate about leaving work at a certain time every day.

4. She owns quite a bit of stock

Sandberg was one of the few executives who didn’t sell her shares in the company’s IPO. She’s holding onto a significant number of restricted stock options – worth as much as $US1.5 billion, which will be completely vested by 2022.

5. She has a background in politics

Before Sandberg headed over to the corporate world, she spent a lot of time walking the halls of Washington DC. After studying at Harvard, she started working for Lawrence Summers, who had taught a class there.

Summers became the chief economist of the World Bank, and then made it to Treasury Secretary. At just 29 years old, she became his chief of staff, but decided to move to California after the Democrats lost big in the 2000 elections.

It was Google who eventually drew her in – she says she was attracted by the company’s “higher vision”.

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