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The Man Behind the Successful Woman


When Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg published her bestseller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, in 2013, she opened up new narratives about women in the workplace. One of those narratives may now be gaining even more attention and resonance—that of the man behind the successful woman.

Sandburg made a point in Lean In to say that a critical factor in her success was the supportive partner and friend she chose in her husband, entrepreneur David Goldberg, who passed away unexpectedly this week.

Sandberg felt so strongly about this point that Lean In includes a chapter covering the importance of choosing the right partner in life, “Make Your Partner a Real Partner,” which advocates for the rethinking of roles as well as the choices we make in our personal lives.

“When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier,” Sandberg wrote, describing her husband as one such full, equal, and supportive partner whose commitment to helping women find their voices, as well as gain entre to circles that were formerly closed to them, extended beyond his own family.

With Goldberg’s passing, friends and colleagues have given interviews that describe his advocacy for the advancement of women in the sciences dating back to his high school years. One such piece on NPR featured anecdotes from his days at Yahoo!, with a former colleague describing how Goldberg would help the daughters of employees make contacts in the tech industry and encouraged them to apply to Stanford.

In the workplace and at home, Goldberg seemed to be the quintessence of, as Sandberg noted, what we should all strive for (Harvard Business School’s definition of leadership): “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence."

He surely will be missed.

Lorrie Lykins is i4cp's managing editor and director of research services.