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Big Names and Big Talk at BlogHer13 in Chicago: Sandberg, Kawasaki, Zuckerberg and more

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Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Chatting with Bloggers after her
Interview at BlogHer13 in Chicago
When Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced to the large convention room full of bloggers that she’d sold a million copies of her book Lean In, I was glad one of those was back on my desk at home. Unlike some women at BlogHer13, I didn’t bring the book I’d read along for Sandberg to sign, but it was helpful as context.  It was striking how this executive-turned-philanthropist took time for book signings, photos and even short chats with attendees after her talk.

Sandberg’s Lean In foundation encourages success and professional development for women, offering free educational resources and a framework for local support networks.  She and Lean In staff even hosted a special Lean In circle after her interview on stage with BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone.  When BlogHer host Lisa Stone asked, “Are we ever going to see you seek national office?”  Sandberg firmly answered, “no.”  Her appearance at BlogHer13 came during a week of stellar earnings reports for Facebook, so in every way this COO was the picture of success.

Lean In Author Sheryl Sandberg Listening after her
On-Stage Interview at BlogHer13 in Chicago
While Sandberg’s book and her success make her an easy target for criticism (is she perhaps a bit out-of-touch with real America where most of us will never afford a nanny?), the book, the talk and the woman seemed genuinely supportive of women “leaning in” to become as successful as possible. She spoke proudly on stage about advocating for salary equality in the professional world.  But she didn’t have time to touch on book details like her respectful mention of stay-at-home motherhood as a choice, her own mother’s years of volunteer work or the need for better paid family leave policies.  

As she probably anticipated, the best-selling author and speaker is an easy target for critical essays, especially by women who blog. Ironically, Lean In points out a Harvard study that shows successful women are less likeable in our society than successful men.  I won’t go on about the connections and the disconnect, the feminist book and the postfeminist perspectives.  Others have written those essays.  What I found impressive was that when other women were inspired to share their opinions, Sandberg listened.  No matter what you think about her book, you have to respect that as the mark of a good leader.

Majora Carter, Lisa Donovan, BlogHer Co-Founder Jory De Jardins,
Brit Morin, Randi Zuckerberg  — in Chicago
Four different successful women shared their stories during an equally inspiring keynote time at BlogHer13! They were Majora Carter, Lisa Donovan, Brit Morin and Randi Zuckerberg.

“You know that there are people who are aching for exactly what it is that you are selling,” explained Carter passionately about her drive to succeed. Carter gave one of the first TedTalks, founded Sustainable South Bronx, and hosts her own radio program called The Promised Land.

Dot Complicated Founder Randi Zuckerberg
with Her New Children’s Book
Donovan co-founded Maker Studios as part of her edgy YouTube and beyond acting career.

Brit + Co is Morin’s super-savvy convergence of DIY craftiness and slick technology.

Zuckerberg (yes, her brother founded Facebook) shared some of her experiences as a reality tv producer and explained how motherhood helped inspire her new community Dot Complicated. The tech-life balance is also addressed in her new children’s book which she showed us, sweetly called Dot.

The most refreshingly candid speaker I was able to see in person at BlogHer13 was a surprisingly social tech guy named Guy Kawasaki.  He spilled personal insights and inspirations about work and family. He convinced us all to try publishing our own books. “When you believe you’re ready to write a book, just write it!”  Kawasaki even handed out free copies of his latest e-book, APE, about self-publishing.

Guy Kawasaki and BlogHer Co-Founder Elisa Camahort
Yes, BlogHer13 lived up to the hype about big names and big talk, in a big room full of people with big ideas!  How could you not be inspired by that?  I learned one little secret about blog conferences, though. Some of the best professional conversations and life lessons come from the person across from you at lunch or next to you on the shuttle bus or alongside you on the fun run.  Here’s to BlogHer bringing even more big names together and including everyone’s opinions in the mix.
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