Sheryl Sandberg is Making Headlines on Women's Empowerment

Sheryl Sandberg has been making a lot of news lately. The Facebook COO was ranked #5 in Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and recently sat down with Glamour Magazine for an interview that touched on workplace equality, balancing work and parenting, and other advice for women. She also just made a deal with Sony Pictures, selling the film rights to her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which has now been out for just over a year.

Sandberg has been a major champion of workplace equality, particularly since the book, and the launch of her non-profit, which bears the same name. If the film ends up being produced and is successful, it could have some major implications for Sandberg’s philanthropic work, not only raising awareness about these issues, but also bringing in more funding to expand her organization and its programs, as she’s already said she’ll donate the proceeds from the film to LeanIn.org.

The publicity hasn’t all been positive, however—there has also been recent criticism of LeanIn for celebrating Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as one of its “trailblazing women who you may not know (but should),” even though, as Katie McDonough of Salon puts it, “her record reads like a greatest hits of anti-woman, anti-family and anti-worker legislation.” Examples include her votes to withdraw federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

It’s hard to say why LeanIn would choose to highlight an individual like Ros-Lehtinen. Maybe they think she really wanted to vote differently, but was forced to toe the party line to make sure she keeps her job? That despite her actions, she really meant it when she said, "I think that every woman in elected office should think of herself as a feminist." If so, that’s not the sort of courage or leadership that LeanIn purports to champion. 

As far as the film goes, Sony is not planning to do a biopic or a documentary, but to develop a narrative film from the themes contained within the book. So while it might highlight some key hurdles that women often face in the workplace, it’s easy to see these themes getting obscured by a romantic subplot, or some other element that places entertainment value over substance. Still, it probably won’t do any harm to the cause, and maybe a documentary will follow.