Sandberg Talks Facebook, Women in the Workplace at HBS Class Day

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl K. Sandberg ’91 encouraged the Harvard Business School’s graduating class to keep in touch with one another using tools such as Facebook at its Class Day on Wednesday.

Sandberg, who is also an alumna of HBS, discussed the way that social media tools have caused a shift in voice from the “powerful to the powerless” as the world becomes more connected.

“It used to be, in order to reach people, you had to be rich, famous, and powerful,” Sandberg said. “That’s not true today. Now, anyone with access to Facebook, Twitter, and mobile phones has a voice.”

Sandberg also talked about the changing structure of the workforce—“from hierarchy to shared responsibilities, from command and control to sharing and listening,” she said.

Sandberg said that Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria asked her to come speak at Class Day to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary of admitting women to the full-time MBA program.

Despite some progress, Sandberg said that women still face many challenges in the workplace.

“It is time for women to take their rightful seat at the head of the table,” she said.

During his speech, Andrew D. Sternlight ’06, a member of the Business School graduating class, shared a story about his battle with cancer during his senior year of college.

Through this experience, Sternlight said that he realized the sense of community and purpose.

“What’s important is not scholastic or professional achievements, but the moments I spend with my family and friends...those who gave me elixir that even the best doctors could not provide,” he said.

In addition to being a JD/MBA candidate at HBS and Yale Law School, Sternlight also serves as a tutor in Pforzheimer House.

Nohria also emphasized the importance of community in difficult times when speaking about the death of HBS student Nathan G. Bihlmaier, whose body was found on Tuesday in Portland Harbor.

“What makes our school so special is its community,” Nohria said. “Let’s come together as a family and community.”

Members of the audience wore black ribbons on their chest in honor of Bihlmaier. In light of the community’s support for Bihlmaier’s death, Student Association co-presidents Jonathan R. Dick and Ifunanya “Funa” O. Maduka, delivered a message of gratitude.

“We will continue to be there for each other,” Maduka said. “That is the promise of [the] Class of 2012.”

—Staff writer Jane Seo can be reached at janeseo@college.harvard.edu.

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