Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, spoke in Philadelphia last month to a room filled with (primarily) women about her recently released book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Her book includes anecdotes about a number of fellow leaders — including several prominent male and female South Asian Americans. Sandberg herself was included on a list of female powerhouses when Forbes included her on their 2011 World’s Most Powerful Women List, which includes Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi. (And she also showed up in the 2012 list.) Here are five South Asian leaders who inspired Sandberg in “Lean In.”
Name: Kunal Modi
Position: Student pursuing a Master in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and a Master of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Currently serves as Co-President of the HBS Student Association.
Page number: 165
Anecdote: Sandberg cites Modi’s Huffington Post essay, “Man Up on Family and Workplace Issues,” which calls for men to take ownership of family issues.
Where to find him: @kunalmodi
Name: Nitin Nohria
Position: Dean of Harvard Business School
Page number (s): 65,156
Anecdote: In “Lean In,” Sandberg writes that at Harvard Business School, men have academically outperformed women and international students. When Nitin Nohria became dean of Harvard Business School three years ago, he tackled the disparity head-on. In two year’s time, he and a group of faculty had created a more equal environment.
Name: Padmasree Warrior
Position: Chief Technology & Strategy Officer (CTO) of Cisco Systems, and the former CTO of Motorola, Inc.
Page number: 35
Anecdote: In the second chapter of “Lean In,” Sandberg urges women to “Sit at the Table.” As part of that theme, she cites a quote from an interview with Warrior. “I said no to a lot of opportunities when I was just starting out because I thought, ‘That’s not what my degree is in’ or ‘I don’t know about that domain.’ In retrospect, at a certain point it’s your ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters.
“One of the things I tell people these days is that there is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” You can find the full interview on the Huffington Post.
Where to find her: @Padmasree
Name: Shailesh Rao
Position: Vice President, International Operation, Twitter
Page number: 59
Anecdote: When Sandberg was negotiating her first business deal when she worked at Google, she reached out to Rao for advice. He told her to always let the other side make the first offer.
Where to find him: @shaileshrao
Name: Sabeen Virani Dhanani
Position: A consultant for a Dubai-based strategy consulting firm
Page number: 147
Anecdote: After Sandberg delivered her TED talk, she received a story from Virani, who was working in Saudi Arabia where she was the only woman in an office of 300 employees. Writes Sandberg in an article originally published in The Huffington Post, “My talk includes a story about a male executive who did not know where the women’s restroom was in his own office. The issue for Sabeen, she wrote, was not that no one knew where the women’s restroom was, but that it did not exist at all. Inspired by the talk, she worked hard to earn the respect of her client and gained the courage to ask for her own bathroom. She sent me a photo of her smiling in front of a door with a printed paper sign that reads simply and powerfully, “Toilets for women only.”