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Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg to Harvard Grads: ‘Can You Click On an Ad or Two’

Wednesday, 23 May 2012 | 5:07 PM ET
Sheryl Sandberg
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Sheryl Sandberg

Harvard Business School's graduating class was eager to hear what Sheryl Sandberg would say about Facebook's IPO, in her Class Day Speech at Harvard Business School.

(She graduated from Harvard back in 1995, when CEO Mark Zuckerbergwas 11.)

But as expected she steered clear of any controversial issues -- no talk about the Nasdaq or the stock price . She talked quite a lot about working with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the premium both of them place on honesty and clear, simple communication.

In her closing thoughts of the twenty minute speech she finally referenced Facebook's IPOwith a quip: "I wish for your four things, first keep in touch via facebook, this is critical to your future success, and we're public now so can you click on an ad or two when you're there?" The line drew laughs and applause.

Her other three wishes: that students speak and seek the truth, that they be true to their authentic selves, and that this generation accomplishes what hers has not-- a world where half the homes are run by men and half the institutions are run by women.

Sandberg shared some pearls of wisdom she's picked up over her career at Google and Facebook. How did she end up leaving Google to work for a 23-year-old at Facebook? She took advice from Google chairman Eric Schmidt -- not to worry about her career plan, but to "get on a rocket ship," and "when companies are growing quickly careers take care of themselves."

She also addressed how Facebook has changed the world, saying the business landscape students are about to join is "hyper connected."

And as expected she touched on a message she stresses often-- that there aren't enough women running businesses. She referred to the statistic that the number of women at C-level jobs is stuck at around 15%. "The promise of equality is not equality," she says. "We need to start talking about this." And she says it's a problem that reaches to the women graduating tomorrow, "we can't close the leadership gap without closing the aspiration gap."

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.