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Sandberg lays out LeanIn's next big challenge

It's been nearly a year since Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg published "Lean In" and launched a movement, with a non-profit and "Lean In" circles to help women pursue their goals. At the inaugural "Makers Conference," which is focused on women leaders, Sandberg sat down for an exclusive interview to talk about what LeanIn.org has accomplished and how much more it needs to do.

The biggest challenge, Sandberg said, lies ahead. Achieving equality requires that companies understand the barriers women face, and acknowledge that achieving equality is necessary not just to help women, but to help business.

"I think what we're seeing is that CEOs (and most of them are men, some are women), are recognizing that this isn't something that makes them feel good. This isn't about equality for women. This is about their bottom line," Sandberg said. "That if they can embrace and use the full talents of the population, their companies can outperform. And I think that leads to the change we need to see."

Sheryl Sandberg
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg said the biggest surprise of the past year has been what women have done to change their lives. "Lean In Circles, small peer groups that the organization helps found—I've met with them from Beijing to a Minneapolis Air Force Base to Turkey a couple weeks ago," Sandberg said. "And what you hear is that when women come together (and men) and really want to make the most of what they want for their lives, they can do it."

But for women to feel empowered to change their lives, they must know what's possible—and that starts with the images of women in the media. Sandberg's speech at the "Makers Conference" comes on the heels of LeanIn announcing a big partnership with Getty Images to change perceptions of women starting with the images of them in the media. The "Lean In Collection," consists of 2,500 photos of women at work and at home, breaking traditional stereotypes, along with photos of men "leaning in" to tackle family responsibilities.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter @JBoorstin.

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