“I am not a fan of that phrase,” “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell said when she was asked the perennial question, “Can women have it all?”
Though it's a cliche, the "having it all" issue is an inevitable one, because O'Donnell has secured the first television interview with Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive whose new book Lean In has captivated the attention of the media and of women across the country. The interview will air on Sunday's "60 Minutes" — O'Donnell's first-ever time on the prestigious show.
Sandberg's thesis — that women are unintentionally holding themselves back in the workplace — has been met with a wave of criticism from those who argue that the COO is elitist or even blaming women instead of institutionalized sexism. Others have defended Sandberg as a staunch feminist and said the book is well worth reading.
In the "60 Minutes" profile, Sandberg pushes back at her critics. “My message is not one of blaming women. There is an awful lot we don’t control,” she says. “There is an awful lot we can control and we can do for ourselves to sit at more tables, raise more hands.”
Profiling Sandberg for “60 Minutes” was a project “long in the works,” O’Donnell told The Huffington Post during an interview at the CBS News headquarters on Thursday. When she joined CBS News as a White House correspondent in the summer of 2011, the network announced that she would also serve as the substitute host to Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” and a contributor to “60 Minutes.” Within the first couple of months of her arrival, O’Donnell pitched a number of stories to the newsmagazine, including a profile on Sandberg.
“They said, ‘Great. Sounds like a great story, but see if you can get the interview,” O’Donnell said. She approached Sandberg as the company was preparing to launch its IPO, but Facebook did not want to speak to the press at the time. “I had no idea that she had a book coming out,” O’Donnell said of the time she first approached Sandberg. But the exclusive interview surrounding her book release came as a result of her initial request a year and a half ago.
O’Donnell described Sandberg’s Lean In as a “sort of feminism 2.0 moment.” She added, “I think Sheryl is delivering a pretty blunt message that is, ‘The revolution has stalled.’ And that’s a message I don’t think people want to hear … I think her take is that it’s not just sexism anymore. It’s an ambition gap when it comes to women who want to lead. And I think that's a really profound argument.”
O’Donnell mentioned research that Sandberg discusses as well – that women have been getting more college degrees than men for 30 years, but make up just barely over 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
When asked where the glass ceiling exists in her own industry, O’Donnell pointed to the executive suite and roles behind the camera. “I still think we’re waiting for a women president of a news organization, so there’s a glass ceiling there. And I think there can be more parity in terms of women in executive positions, whether that's in management or in production,” she said. NBC, where O'Donnell previously worked for 12 years, happens to have an opening. Longtime NBC News president Steve Capus announced his departure earlier this year and the network has not yet named his replacement.
There's a certain sense of irony about this moment for O'Donnell. Her story on Sandberg about factors preventing women from excelling in the workplace is the very interview that will introduce her to audiences on what many industry professionals consider the most coveted of all broadcast news programs. “It was one of the things that when I was making a decision about my next career move, I really wanted to do ‘60 Minutes,’” O’Donnell said. “So that has long been a dream, that was part of my decision to come to [CBS] two years ago.”
CBS News chairman Jeff Fager “promises” that audiences will see O’Donnell on “60 Minutes” again. “She has all the right skills to be successful with us, and mostly because she’s a real reporter who knows how to do interviews," he said. "That’s why you will see her again on 60 Minutes, and why she’s such an important part of 'CBS This Morning' every single day.”
After spending a year as the network’s White House correspondent, O’Donnell was named co-host of “CBS This Morning” alongside Charlie Rose and Gayle King. Though the show has far fewer hosts than its direct competitors, the program boasts the best gender ratio of all the morning shows—2:1. Ratings for the 14-month-old show are also up double digits in both total viewers and the 25-54 age demographic compared to last year’s February sweeps, just one month after the show launched with Rose, King and O'Donnell's predecessor, Erica Hill.
CBS has gone through multiple revamps of morning shows in recent years and has long been in third place behind NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “GMA.” But the broadcast and cable morning show landscape has been hit with major changes since O’Donnell joined “CBS This Morning” in August 2012. "GMA" has gained a newfound dominance over "Today" and CNN is in the process of re-launching its morning show yet again.
“Every minute counts,” executive producer Chris Licht, who also serves as CBS News’ vice president of programming, said. “People are sampling different shows more than ever, so we treat every segment and every guest as an opportunity to grab – or lose—a viewer.”
O'Donnell's interview with Sandberg could be one of those opportunities, as the book sparks what O'Donnell described as an at-times polarizing but necessary conversation. “Everybody has an opinion on this subject and it’s usually a strong opinion about women in the workplace, how to balance work and family, how women are treated in the workplace,” she said. “And people have fierce opinions on both sides of this ... There will be a lot of strong reactions.”
Work-life balance is a topic O’Donnell knows very well. She spoke candidly about feeling “embarrassed” that she had another child 13 months after having twins. She said she worried about being the “pregnant lady at work” and missing out on any opportunities. Instead, O’Donnell worked throughout her pregnancy and covered the 2008 Democratic primary.
“I was on set all day and at midnight [I was told] Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann … were tired and wanted to go home. So then the pregnant lady stayed on until 2 in the morning,” O’Donnell laughed.
She returned to work to cover the Democratic convention seven weeks after her third child was born. "I didn't want to miss out on any opportunities," she said. "So I think there was kind of a sense of guilt about that, but I don't have that anymore."
With a morning show and "60 Minutes" debut around the corner, the mother of three said she's not a fan of the "having it all" phrase because it boxes women in. "I think it sets up that there’s this singular 'Having It All' [and] that everybody has to fit into that ‘Having It All’ box," she said. "I think everybody should have a different sense of what success is."
Also on HuffPost:
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
A New Kind Of Cover Girl
In March 2013, Sheryl released her new book, “Lean In,” and it instantly shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list -- and landed her on the cover of Time magazine.
Advocating For Women In The Workplace
Sheryl had never spoken about women’s issues in public before her TED talk on “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” and she was advised against it by her peers, who claimed that it would draw attention to the fact that she is a woman. Sheryl laughed and said, “I think they know I’m a women.” The video of her TED talk instantly went viral. Overnight, Sheryl established herself as a leading advocate for women in the workplace.
Born To Lead
The oldest of three children, Sheryl possessed undeniable leadership skills from an early age. But while young boys are often encouraged to lead, Sheryl was regularly referred to as “bossy.” Part of her mission today is to teach parents to encourage their young daughters to develop their leadership skills, instead of dismissing them as overly aggressive.
Standing In Her Own Way
For her whole early life, Sheryl felt that she needed to hold herself back from being too successful or appearing too smart. In high school, she was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by her peers, but was embarrassed by the recognition. She asked a friend on the yearbook staff to remove that title from her name.
Welcome To Silicon Valley
After serving as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Treasury Department, Sheryl made her way to Silicon Valley, where she accepted a position as Vice President of Google’s Global Online Sales & Operations. At the time, Google was a small start-up, but during her stint with the company, it became an unprecedented success.
A Fateful Meeting
Sheryl met Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party held by Yahoo COO Dan Rosensweig in late 2007. Although he wasn’t actively looking for a new COO for Facebook, Mark knew that Sheryl would be perfect for the job. After several months of becoming acquainted with one another, Sheryl left her post at Google to become Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer.
Marriage As A Real Partnership
In various interviews, Sheryl has stressed to women the importance of choosing a partner who supports their career and agrees to assist with housework and childcare. Her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, possesses these qualities, which allows the pair to operate as a team.
A Well-Educated Woman
A graduate of Harvard College, Sheryl earned her A.B. in economics and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. In May 2011, she spoke at the commencement ceremony at Barnard College about achieving equality in the workplace and seeking ways to find work/life balance.
Sheryl is no stranger to economics. At Harvard, she met mentor Larry Summers, who later recruited her to serve as his research assistant at the World Bank. Here she appears on stage alongside Danielle Gray, deputy director of the National Economic Council; Mari Pangestu, Indonesia's trade minister; and moderator Chris Jansing at the APEC Women and the Economy Summit in September 2011.
Working For The President
After a stint as a business consultant, Sheryl served as the Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 2001. Here, she joins the former president and Katie Couric at the Women for Women International Gala at the Museum of Modern Art in November 2011.
Chosen By The Commander In Chief
President Obama listens intently to Sheryl’s advice during a meeting of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The council was established to promote growth in American business and equip American workers with the skills they need to succeed.
Women Who Have Leaned In
Arianna Huffington has been a strong supporter of Sheryl’s “Lean In” message, which calls for women to eliminate self-doubt and focus on their personal well-being. Here, Sheryl joins Arianna at the 2011 Matrix Awards, which honor women in communications and the arts.
An Evening At The White House
Who has Sheryl referred to as her biggest personal role model? Her mother, of course! Here, she escorts her mom, Adele Sandberg, to the White House for the State Dinner for South Korea in October 2011.
Discussing New Marketing Tools
In Sheryl’s current position at Facebook, she oversees business operations, which includes everything from marketing and sales to public policy and human resources. Here Sheryl speaks to an audience of marketing professionals at a Facebook event in February 2012.
Weighing In At The World Economic Forum
Now a highly sought-after speaker on the world stage, Sheryl participated in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January 2013.
Powerful Women Team Up
Sheryl spoke about women in business with Chelsea Clinton as part of the promotion for her new book, “Lean In” in March 2013.
Post 50 Female Legends And Icons
Post 50 Female Legends And Icons
The Disney Princess
<strong>Who:</strong> Ann Sweeney (53) <strong>Why:</strong> In a world where young girls dream of being like Cinderella, Snow White, and Jasmine -- we can't help but think how cool it is that there's a new Disney princess to look up to: Ann Sweeney. As the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney-ABC Television Group, she is a woman in a predominately male business. Sweeney uses this platform to work in organizations such as Cable Positive - a group of CEOs that work with the media's resources in the fight against AIDS. Photo: Getty
The Fashion Icon
<strong>Who:</strong> Grace Coddington (70) <strong>Why:</strong> The Creative Director for U.S. <em>Vogue</em> stole the show in the 2009 documentary "The September Issue" where she fearlessly goes head to head with <a href="http://www.themortonreport.com/celebrity/notables/is-vogue-editor-in-chief-anna-wintour-shopping-memoir/" target="_hplink">"ice-queen"</a> Anna Wintour. It goes without saying, her trademark hair is pretty amazing, too. Photo: Getty
<strong>Who:</strong> Wallis Annenberg (72) <strong>Why:</strong> She's not your average philanthropic socialite! The heiress publisher-turned-public benefactor donates her time and money to making cities like Los Angeles well rounded and beautiful. Bob Colacello's portrait of Miss Annenberg for <em><a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/style/features/2009/10/wallis-annenberg200910" target="_hplink">Vanity Fair</a></em> is one of our favorites. Photo: Getty
The California Girl
<strong>Who:</strong> Dianne Feinstein (78) <strong>Why:</strong> In many ways, it seems the San-Francisco born Feinstein has been a heavy-hitter since the day she was born. The former (and first-female) San Francisco Mayor is a California girl thru-and-thru who has survived divorce, death, and even representing the Democrats in the Senate. Photo: Getty
Who: Oprah Winfrey (57) Why: Oh Oprah, how do we love thee? Let me count the ways... besides being "arguably the world's most powerful woman," according to <em><a href="http://entertainment.time.com/" target="_hplink">TIME</a></em>, Oprah has a philanthropic compulsion to match her monetary earnings. Through her <a href="http://www.oprah.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Angel Network</a> and <a href="http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/Oprah-Winfrey-Leadership-Academy-for-Girls" target="_hplink">Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy</a>, she has supported women's shelters, built youth centers and homes, created academic scholarships and established more than 50 schools around the world. Photo: Getty
The Zen Master
<strong>Who:</strong> Donna Karan (63) <strong>Why:</strong> The international wellness crusader started her <a href="http://www.urbanzen.org/" target="_hplink">Urban Zen Foundation</a> (UZF) in the months following her husband's death to cancer. The UZF and the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy programs strive to integrate of yoga, meditation and aromatherapy into conventional treatment regimens. Photo: Getty
The Resilient Author
<strong>Who: </strong>Joan Didion (76) <strong>Why:</strong> After the literary icon behind "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and "Play It As It Lays" endured the deaths of both her husband and daughter - she gave us the gift of "The Year Of Magical Thinking". "Blue Nights," Joan Didion's memoir about her daughter, Quintana, will be released on Nov. 1, 2011. Photo: Getty
<strong>Who:</strong> Maria Shriver (55) <strong>Why:</strong> After experiencing public betrayal, Shriver really showed her grace. She's won a Peabody Award and two Emmys for her broadcast journalism, but she's won the heart of her fans through her empathy and reliability. Post-scandal, she's back on the saddle again -- Shriver <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/14/maria-shriver-interviews-wallis-annenberg_n_963415.html#s361877" target="_hplink">interviewed</a> Wallis Annenberg for <em>Los Angeles Magazine</em>'s inaugural "Women's Issue". Photo: Getty
The Go-To Girl
<strong>Who: </strong>Barbara Walters (82) <strong>Why: </strong>She's undeniably the queen of interviews having questioned the likes of Monica Lewinsky, Hugo Chavez, Anna Wintour, Katherine Hepburn and Anwar Al Sadat -- to name a few. Now holding the reigns on <em>The View</em> she's as strong as she's ever been. Photo: Getty
<strong>Who:</strong> Indra Nooyi (55) <strong>Why:</strong> The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo was the 2011 <a href="http://www.blogher.com/" target="_hplink">BlogHer</a> Keynote speaker and blew the crowd away. Business Week quoted Roger Enrico as saying, "Indra can drive as deep and hard as anyone I've ever met, but she can do it with a sense of heart and fun." Photo: Getty
The Funny Girl
<strong>Who:</strong> Ellen Degeneres (53) <strong>Why:</strong> The 13-time Emmy winner has more than a fantastic sense of humor going for her. Not only did she risk <em>everything</em> to come out and conquer LGBT issues, she consistently supports the charitable efforts of the <a href="http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2011/05/please_help_the_tornado_victims_0525.php" target="_hplink">American Red Cross</a> and the <a href="http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2011/09/donate_to_farm_sanctuary_0916.php" target="_hplink">Farm Sanctuary</a>. Photo: Getty
<strong>Who:</strong> Bonnie Raitt (61) <strong>Why:</strong> The best-selling, classic blues-playing rockstar follows in rebel music history with her long-standing political activism. She frequently speaks out against politicians she doesn't support and just as often she praises those she admires. In 2000, she was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame - for a game that mostly men play - but we aren't knocking her dad, John, because we loved him too. Photo: Getty
The Academy Queen
<strong>Who:</strong> Meryl Streep (62) <strong>Why:</strong> Not only does she have 16 Academy Award nominations and 25 Golden Globe nominations, but she often has won these accolades playing roles that defy the gender roles assigned to women. Streep plays Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming film, "The Iron Lady". Photo: Getty
Who: Hillary Clinton (63) Why: The current Secretary of State is no stranger to gossip. She has always risen above adversity with dignity and style. Not only was she an active First Lady, but she did as we know, run for President herself. No shame in that! Photo: Getty
The Power Player
Who: Diane Sawyer (65) Why: The former host of <em>Good Morning America </em>and current anchor of <em>ABC World News</em> has interviewed famous people such as Robert McNamara, Nancy Pelosi, Richard Nixon, Nancy Reagan, Madonna, and Roman Polanski. She was one accused of being "Deep Throat" and has fought the "Mommy War" rumors with ease. Photo: Getty
The 'Leading' Lady
<strong>Who:</strong> Angela Merkel (57) <strong>Why:</strong> The current Chancellor of Germany has epitomized a female in a position of leadership. <em><a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2066367_2066369_2066098,00.html #ixzz1bTuNodMU " target="_hplink">TIME Magazine</a></em> once said, she has "a spirit of compromise in the service of a genuine ambition -- and fed by a desire for openness." According to <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Business/worlds-100-powerful-women-angela-merkel-hillary-clinton/story?id=14364193" target="_hplink">ABC News</a>, Merkel is the "undisputed leader of the EU." Not bad. Photo: Getty
<strong>Who:</strong> Jill Abramson (57) <strong>Why:</strong> We call her "The Pioneer" because Jill Abramson is the first female editor of the <em>New York Times</em> in the newspaper's history. Some rumors have her as difficult to work with and others proclaim her dedication to NYC based on the subway token tattoo she has on her right shoulder (via <em><a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/jill-abramson/" target="_hplink">Forbes</a></em>). Either way you swing it, she's a woman who is revolutionizing the way women are viewed in media and publishing. Photo: Patrick McMullan
<strong>Who:</strong> Condoleezza Rice (56) <strong>Why:</strong> The former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor did not forget the importance of strong educational roots. After her time concluded at the White House, Rice returned to Stanford as a Political Economy Professor in the Graduate School of Business. Rice has been prolific in female society roles. She is on the Board at both the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Photo: Getty
The Girl's Girl
<strong>Who:</strong> Gloria Steinem (77) <strong>Why:</strong> As the leader of the Women's Liberation Movement, Steinem has been at this for a while -- and she's not backing down. She co-founded the Women's Media Center, the Coalition of Labor Union Women and <em>Ms. Magazine</em>. She is writing a book about her activism, with the working title of "Road to the Heart: America As if Everyone Mattered." Photo: Getty
The Movie Star
<strong>Who:</strong> Michelle Pfeiffer (53) <strong>Why:</strong> The one-time Cat woman has shied away from press in the past, but her recent cover for <em>Elle Magazine</em>'s "Women In Hollywood 2011" issue has reminded us all that she never really left the limelight. Photo: Getty