Most Powerful Women

What's next for Sheryl Sandberg?

October 16, 2013: 5:01 PM ET

The Facebook COO and Lean In author says she has no plans to run for office.

By Jessi Hempel, senior writer

FORTUNE -- How do you do it all? It's a familiar question often directed toward women who attempt to balance a career with family. Implicit is the assumption that of course something is being sacrificed. If the kids are happy, the job is suffering. And if along the way, you also write a best-selling book and launch a foundation to help promote the cause, then surely everything must be close to implosion.

Unless, of course, you're Sheryl Sandberg.

Ranking number five on Fortune's list of The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, Facebook's (FB) chief operating officer spoke Oct. 17 at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. Her message was clear: It's time to turn the question on men.

MORE: Complete coverage of the Most Powerful Women Summit

"We live in a world of 'and' for men," said Sandberg. "Men can have careers and families. We are always asking women, 'How can you have it all?' Lots of men write books while they are in big jobs."

Sandberg has had a mammoth year. Lean In, her book on women and leadership, has become a rallying cry for a generation of ambitious women attempting to balance the constantly shifting demands of parenting and building a career. She has recently launched a foundation with a staff dedicated to supporting women (and men) as they start Lean In circles, small voluntary groups in which members offer each other career support. As my colleague Miguel Helft wrote in his Oct. 7 cover story on Sandberg, she is making feminism mainstream again. She has done all of this while leaning in herself; Sandberg is the chief dealmaker at Facebook (FB), which has seen its stock jump roughly 140% in the past year to around $50.

With so much professional momentum, Sandberg was pushed hard to answer the question everyone always asks: What's next? Plenty of speculators have posited that Sandberg, having begun her career at the U. S. Treasury Department, might get into politics. But she told Fortune's audience she has no plans to run for office. For the moment, she is happy working for a company she cares about. Facebook's mission to connect everyone in the world offers her a cause she can rally behind -- and the flexibility to pursue new causes of her own.

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