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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

"The Sun" Pays Damages to British Lawmaker; Happy Ending to Girl Scouts Cookie Hoax; Part One of Interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; Boehner Stands Firm on Same-Sex Marriage; "The Sapphires" Sing Out

Aired March 18, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In just a few moments, we're going to take a look at my Part One of my sit-down interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. First, though, John Berman's got a look at the day's top stories. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. This just in to CNN: "The Sun", a newspaper in London, will pay substantial damages to British lawmaker Siobhain McDonagh. The Rupert Murdoch- owned paper accessed personal information from her stolen cell phone, according to her aide. No word on how much McDonagh will be paid. The agreement was reached in London's high court this morning.

A possible break in the death of a New York woman in Istanbul, Turkish authorities taking a 46-year-old homeless man into custody near the Syrian border. Police say they used DNA from his brother to tie him to the crime. Sarai Sierra's body found February 2; her killer struck her in the head. The mother of two had gone to Turkey on vacation alone.

Ireland's prime minister delivering a St. Patrick's Day message to Superstorm Sandy-ravaged New York neighborhood known as the Irish Riviera, "Keep your spirits up." Enda Kenny toured Breezy Point yesterday, five months after Sandy really just pounded the area. He said Ireland may not be able to help financially, but it can help with the visible presence of those who come, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

Someone pulled like a really mean prank on Girl Scouts in Portland, Oregon, ordering $24,000 worth of cookies, then not paying up. But it looks like the scouts will recover their cookie dough, or money. They were stuck with 6,000 unsold boxes of cookies, but a last minute emergency sale this weekend had hundreds of people lining up to buy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE CLARK, GIRL SCOUTS SUPPORTER: Well, I wanted to support the Girl Scouts. I felt bad about the story we heard on the news yesterday and it wasn't a good thing. Plus, I like the cookies. So it's a win-win.

SARAH MILLER, GIRL SCOUTS OF OREGON & SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON: It's a hard lesson for the girls to learn but a really important and valuable business lesson to learn, that there are people out there who don't have your best intentions at heart, and you need to be prepared for that and know how to handle it when it does happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It gets them ready for a job on Wall Street, right? There are shady people out there.

A local station reports the prankster will not be charged since no money was actually exchanged. The remaining 3,000 boxes will go on sale next weekend.

O'BRIEN: I love that people jumped in to try to buy the boxes, because that means they can't go to camp if they don't sell those boxes.

BERMAN: They're headed to camp, we're told.

O'BRIEN: I love it, I love it.

So there has been much debate over a controversial new book written by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It's called "Lean In," and it's filled with advice encouraging women to be leaders in the workplace, rid themselves of the stereotypes that hold them back. Some critics say, though, that Sandberg's is unrealistic for women who are trying to balance work and family.

And I had a chance to sit down with Sheryl Sandberg in Facebook's New York office. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHERYL SANDBERG, FACEBOOK COO: "Lean In" is not about fixing women and it's certainly not about, you know, anyone can do this all on their own. "Lean In" is about all of us coming together to understand the stereotypes that are holding women back and fix them.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Sheryl Sandberg is on a mission. The 43-year- old COO of Facebook is going media door to media door selling her new book and her message about a modern feminist movement.

(on camera): You say the revolution, the feminist revolution, has stalled. And Gloria Steinem says it's not stalled, it's sort of in the middle. It needs another 50 years. Are you picking up the mantle of feminism? Many people bristle against that word.

SANDBERG: So I wrote that I never used the word feminism to describe myself until a number of years ago. I mean, when I was in college or even recently, you don't want to be a feminist.

O'BRIEN: Why not?

SANDBERG: Well, feminists don't get dates. Feminists were angry or done, because everything was going to be equal. When I was in college, and I know we're roughly the same age, we believed everything would be equal. No one talked about work-life balance that I remember. No one worried about these things. We thought it would be equal, but it hasn't worked out that way. And I now proudly call myself a feminist.

Hi, guys, how are you?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): And Sandberg may just be the right version of the modern feminist to make it work. Harvard-educated, her professor, Larry Summers, tapped her to be his chief of staff while he was at the U.S. Treasury. She later jumped to Silicon Valley when Eric Schmidt of Google offered per a job. When Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook came calling, she saw another rocketship about to launch and made the move. In between all that, she got married and had two children, a boy now seven and a girl, five.

As COO, Sandberg is one of only 21 female executives in the Fortune 500. She says it's time to change that.

SANDBERG: When I got on stage 2 1/2 years ago and said the blunt truth is men ran the world, the audience gasped, as if this was news. I sat down at a very exclusive conference next to a man who looked at me and said, "Remember us." I was like, "What do you mean?"

"Remember us. There is a place for white men in the world." And I looked at him and said, "Are you looking around this conference? There has never been a company in your industry not run by a white man." He said, "Oh, no, no, change is coming."

Well, it's been ten years with no progress at the top of corporate America, and that's stagnation. And "Lean In" has stirred up an active debate, a heated debate. I'm grateful for that debate because I think that's our only chance of waking up to this problem.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The book is chapter after chapter of advice, examples, and studies. Chapter titles like "Sit at the Table," "Seek and Speak Your Truth," and "Success and Likeability", lay out the problems women face and how they can fix them.

This has led to strong criticism from women like "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd and Joanne Bamberger, in "USA Today", who say Sandberg's book is unrealistic for the woman who isn't in the C-suite and can't afford private planes and a staff of household help.

(on camera): Joanne Bamberger in "USA Today": "Mayer and Sandberg, even if they have good intentions, are setting back the cause of working mothers. Sandberg's argument that equality in the workplace just requires women to pull themselves up by the Louboutin straps," and goes on and on, basically saying that you're out of touch with the average working woman.

SANDBERG: So if you read the book, I'm very clear the institutional policies and changes we need. But more importantly, the research shows something very conclusively, which is that when more women are in senior management roles, those companies have better work-life policies for women.

O'BRIEN: When you talk about your mentors in the book, it's mostly men.

SANDBERG: I've never worked for a woman. I have been really lucky and I've had great mentors and great sponsors and part of "Lean In" is trying to help people find the right way to develop those mentors and sponsors, and saying to every man out there, "It should be a badge of honor to mentor a young woman." Not something you're as shamed to do, not something you're afraid someone will assume something bad, but a badge of honor that you're willing to spend your time giving benefit of your experience to young women in the workforce. They need it.

O'BRIEN: Most of your critics are women.

SANDBERG: Most of the debate about "Lean In" has been women, especially for the first couple weeks before the book was out. One thing I -- someone asked me what was the most surprising thing. The most surprising thing was that no man said a word. I couldn't find a man writing a line, saying a word.

O'BRIEN: So what do you think that means? That they're just going to keep their head down?

SANDBERG: I think it's too hard for men to talk about gender. A friend of mine who runs a large institution said it's easier to talk about your sex life in public, as a man, than talk about gender. We have to let men talk about this. I hope men enter the conversation and the controversy around my book, because -- and every issue, not just mine, every issue --. because we need men to talk about this, too, if it's ever going to change.

O'BRIEN: What's the up side for men?

SANDBERG: If you are the men, who wants -- more people want to work for, if you're the one who can use 51 percent of the population, you'll do better. I was talking with Ken Chenault about this, American Express, and he said when we evaluate senior leaders who we're going to promote, we're looking not just at their results, but we're looking at how many followers do they have? How many people want to work for that person? This will give you more people that want to work for you, and you're going to outperform your peers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: New this morning, Sandberg's written an opinion piece for CNN.com. She says this: "By talking openly about the challenges that women face in the workplace and at home, we can work towards solutions together. We can't ignore the subject any longer. We need to listen, talk and listen, debate, learn, evolve, and take action."

All right, let's talk to the men. Let's hear from the men, as Sheryl says.

CONNIE MACK (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: John?

O'BRIEN: Connie? John? Anybody? Come on, I want to hear from the men. BERMAN: I think the most surprising thing to me about this whole last two weeks, or week, has been just the controversy this has caused. Because I think if you read what you say, I'm not sure what she's saying that is so controversial, or changes the discussion that people have been having for years now.

O'BRIEN: I think some people think the advice of "Lean In" to young women -- "Don't sort of opt out, you should lean in until the minute you have to make that decision," -- I think some people feel like that advice is really great for certain types of women, and for other women who are maybe not dealing with aiming for the C-Suite, but who are more in poverty or lower middle to lower middle class, that that's challenging advice, because it doesn't realistically take the look at how -- the reasons that you lean back, right, which can be your kids. Can be that your husband is not going to contribute. And, you know, which is, again, in the interview, she sort of says, "Yes, I fully get that, but I think this advice can be relevant."

CONNIE MACK: You know, I didn't read the book. But I've certainly had --

O'BRIEN: But your wife is sitting next to you.

(CROSSTALK)

CONNIE MACK: Yes. But with the controversy, I guess I don't really understand the controversy. I mean, I'm picking up bits and pieces, you know, that a successful woman has written a book that other women are taking offense to. And I find that to be interesting.

O'BRIEN: I think some of is -- she highlights the problem, right? Jim Collins wrote "Good to Great" and a bunch of other great business books. And no one wrote op-eds saying sort of saying, well, Jim Collins really isn't focusing on those people who run small companies; Jim Collins isn't really dealing -- his advice is for big companies, people who want to lead big, major successful companies. I think when women write a business book, it's really picked apart.

CONNIE MACK: But it's being picked apart bay other women.

O'BRIEN: Mostly. So therein is the question. Why is that?

MARY BONO MACK (R), FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSWOMAN: There is no one answer. I have a 22-year-old daughter. I care deeply about what Sheryl has to say, what everybody has to say. There is no one answer for a woman's life. And I think --

BERMAN: Or for a person's life. I mean, that's the other thing here.

MARY BONO MACK: But we're talking about women, John.

BERMAN: Right. Agreed.

MARY BONO MACK: I'm sorry, I just leaned in and it didn't go over so well.

O'BRIEN: Look at that, you did.

(CROSSTALK)

MARY BONO MACK: I love you, John. You can either be right or you be happy. You choose. But my 22-year-old daughter, I care deeply about this, because she's at a point in her life where she can choose. My mother, you know, when my late husband Sonny died and I got to run for Congress, she was a woman who gave up her career as a chemist and a scientist to stay home and raised four children, and it really darn near killed her. And she was the first person to say, Mary, you need to run, you need to do this.

So I was lucky that I had a woman push me and make me lean in. So is this book is important. I don't know why women pick it apart, perhaps because we do accept the fact that not all of our lives are the same. But the important thing is that every woman should choose her life her way.

So that's how I feel. But I haven't read the book, but I'm glad Sheryl wrote it and I'm a huge fan of hers.

O'BRIEN: Well, I think some people -- I thought the book was great and I think that some of the criticism, too, is to focus on the policy changes, right? If you could create a way to give more women time off for maternity leave, for example, and I'm not the one to talk. I took no time at all for maternity leave for any of my millions (ph) of kids.

But I think that there are people who say there are structural things in place, not necessarily fixes that women need to do themselves, or in addition to those things women can do to help themselves, structurally there are things that could change to make the work place more equitable so that women could rise to the top of the hierarchy. No matter what, however you feel, it's a great book.

CONNIE MACK: I think practically the fact that so many people are now talking about this book, she wrote a book that is stirring up some controversy --

O'BRIEN: No. 1 on Amazon.

CONNIE MACK: There you go. I mean, that's kind of what you want.

O'BRIEN: And all the proceeds go to her organization, Lean In, which is to help support these conversations.

Going to have Part Two of our interview with Sheryl Sandberg tomorrow. Going to talk a lot about the whole likeability thing, how likeability or lack thereof can get in the way of women succeeding at work.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, after Senator Rob Portman reversed his stance to support gay marriage, the House Speaker John Boehner says he couldn't have had to make the same shift. We'll tell you why he said that.

Plus an extraordinary achievement, a young aboriginal woman selected (to) perform for troops in Vietnam. In happened in history, and there's a new movie now that explores the true story. We'll hear from the stars of "The Sapphires" straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: On a day when we are talking about the RNC's new report about how the party needs to be more open to women and minority, we're hearing from House Speaker John Boehner about gay marriage. He was reacting to conservative Ohio Senator Rob Portman's announcement that he'd reversed his stance on gay marriage after his son came out to him, said he was gay.

Here is what he said on ABC's "This Week".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Listen, I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It's what I grew up with, it's what I believe, it's what my church teaches me. And I can't imagine that position would ever change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Boehner says he considers Portman an ally, but I guess this does harken back to this new GOP report, "Growth and Opportunity Project". We had Ari Fleischer earlier on talking about that. I mean, that's a challenge, right, because Speaker Boehner talked about it's what his church teaches him, you know, and then you have, you know, Senator Portman who would say, well, what my experience with my son teaches me is the polar opposite of something that has -- is a moral issue and has policy implications, right? That's a challenge.

CONNIE MACK: Absolutely, and I think especially it happens in your family something that that you can relate too much closer than something you hear about or read about. But, you know, I think that -- so I also have the position that marriage is between one man and one woman. But that doesn't mean that I don't think that there can't be unions of people who want to live together and have the same rights as people who are married. I think we can do both. I don't think you can force a religious institution to perform marriages that they don't think is right.

O'BRIEN: But the difference there right is that the civil union and marriage are not exactly the same thing. And they're not exactly the same thing in a couple of different ways, important ways. One way is in medical coverage. One is in --

(CROSSTALK)

C. MACK: But that can define, that is -- you're talking about a definition. And what I'm saying is that I think the institution of marriage is a religious institution. And -- but you can have the unions that has the same -- that affords the same people as a male/female marriage the same rights and the same protections under the law. BERMAN: Some people get married by a justice of the peace or, you know, the captain of a ship. Do you think that those unions could be called civil marriage?

MARY BONO MACK: We disagree on this.

C. MACK: I think that -- I think it's important to recognize that when you talk about marriage, it is a religious institution, and that people can still have the same rights and privileges, but you would -- you wouldn't want to force the church to perform those ceremonies and recognize it as a marriage.

O'BRIEN: We've to go to commercial break, see, but this is a challenge in this report. I think that this is going to be big tent issue.

But still ahead on STARTING POINT, a new movie takes an unprecedented look at a moment in history when aboriginal women were chosen to sing for the troops in Vietnam. We're going to hear from the soulful stars of "The Sapphires".

You're watching STARTING POINT we're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: The movie "The Sapphires" is being called the Australian "Dream Girls". It's the story of four young aboriginal women in the '60s who form an all-girl soul group and then get sent to Vietnam to entertain U.S. troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And your name again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're "The Sapphires".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll see you in Saigon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 1, 2, 3. OK, Vietnam, I'm here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can't shake your money maker for the brothers tonight, you're on the first plane back to Austria tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Australia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The movie opens on Friday for U.S. audiences in New York and Los Angeles.

John Berman got to sit down with the four stars, the four "Sapphires" to talk about the film.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I'm joined now by "The Sapphires" -- Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell, Deborah Mailman and Shari Sebbens. Welcome, thank you for coming in today.

So this is based on a really remarkable true story. What's the background here?

DEBORAH MAILMAN, ACTRESS "THE SAPPHIRES": Well it's a -- it's about four aboriginal women who grew in country, Victoria (INAUDIBLE) mission. (INAUDIBLE) Annie Naomi and Annie Laurel. And that's exactly what happened they got the opportunity to go to Vietnam and sing for the troops.

BERMAN: And three of you Jessica, Sharis and Miranda you actually grew up together and auditioned together.

SHARI SEBBENS ACTRESS, "THE SAPPHIRES": Yes. Grew up together loosely. Like Darling's (ph) so small, our hometown. So we all, you know, like we all have connections. We didn't necessarily hang out together or anything, but we all knew of each other and our parents were friends and things like that.

Miranda and I were at the same acting school. We went to Naida (ph) together in Sydney and we were back home in Darling doing a little local theater play and we both auditioned together and then spent the next eight months auditioning the four of us. It finally sort of dwindled --

BERMAN: Eight months of auditioning?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Does it help to know each other to sing together like that?

SEBBENS: It was more like the auditions were more based on the characters and the drama of the film. Because the family relationship is so important. Casting these four women, I keep saying it, but the chemistry was as important as casting KStew and RPattz for "Twilight". Like, it had to be right. Had to be perfect.

BERMAN: Just like "Twilight". It sounds like -- so part of the fun part of the movie is the evolution of this group growing together and it sounds like you sort of had an evolution as you were all rehearsing and auditioning for this.

Let's play a small clip of where you get to perform for the troops.

(MUSIC)

BERMAN: All I can say is wow. I'm a sucker for musical theater. It kind of gets right to me. Was it hard to learn the dance moves and all this kind of stuff?

JESSICA MAUBOY, ACTRESS: Certainly we spent a lot of time working with our wonderful, indigenous, Australian choreographer, Steven Page. Yes, it was. I mean we had later put out some dance which was just a moment where we'd just be huffing and puffing and just out of breath and just lovely moments where we had just beautiful song (INAUDIBLE) who is loving you. All were incredibly amazing songs. BERMAN: On the subject of amazing, the reviews have not been bad one bit. Let me read it from the "Hollywood Reporter". It says, "A jewel bright charmer about four spunky indigenous women whose powerhouse voices catapulted them on to the '60s era world stage as Australia's answer to the Supremes." Jewel-bright, charmer, spunky -- pretty good, right?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: So what is next then for this funky group of jewel-bright charmers here. Are you guys taking this on the road? You guys think you'll sing together, keep the band together as it were.

SEBBENS: We've been going for 10 months, we started in Cannes ten months ago now and it's just been the global response to this film has been phenomenal. And every time we think it's just about to die down, it picks back up again. And now this is -- I don't know, I feel like this might be the end of it all. We're coming to the end of "The Sapphires" era in terms of audiences and cinemas and things like that. So who knows from here.

BERMAN: Then we'll just have to see the movie so we can see you all sing together. All right. "The Sapphires" thank you so much for joining me now. The movie opens soon.

We'll be right back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And we'll be right back as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Starting tomorrow on STARTING POINT, singer Jon Secada is going to join us; military veteran and actor, J.R. Martinez will be our guest as well.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.