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March 11th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg suddenly in crossfire

By Todd Leopold, CNN

(CNN) - Sheryl Sandberg is a role model, say her defenders.

The chief operating officer of Facebook earned two degrees from Harvard and spent the early part of her career in public service, rising to become chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers during the latter days of the Clinton administration. She helped build Google into a powerhouse; she has led the Facebook team in making the social media site ubiquitous. She's a mother who cares deeply about work-life balance and has been outspoken about women pulling together.

Sheryl Sandberg is no role model, say her detractors.

She's glided to the top thanks to the help of powerful men, whether it's the patronage of Summers, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt or Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. She's worth hundreds of millions of dollars, lives in an exclusive Bay Area suburb with a staff of minders and knows as much about being a working mother as a Pacific Heights socialite.

One thing's for sure: Sheryl Sandberg is in the crosshairs.

Her new book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," is out Monday, and her arguments, focusing on how women in the workplace can grow their careers and their lives, have attracted both praise and denunciation - though, as the New Yorker's Anna Holmes has noted, many of the denouncers have jumped on Sandberg in the "ready, fire, aim" fashion typical of the commentariat.

"Anyone who had read her book would have known that Sandberg herself is the first to acknowledge the debts she owes to the women who came before her, not to mention her youthful naivete and eventual engagement with gender politics," Holmes wrote.

So just who is Sheryl Sandberg, and why are people saying such extreme things about her?

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Filed under: Gender • How we live • Who we are • Women
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