The US Navy has updated its definition of a symbolic woman

She’ll launch a submarine
She’ll launch a submarine
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook, a prominent activist, a bestselling author—and the new public face of the US Navy.

The Navy has chosen Sandberg to sponsor and christen its newest submarine, the AP reports. The role, though always given to a woman, has traditionally been taken on by the wives of senior officials or politicians who have strong ties to the Navy.

But awarding it to Sandberg—an outspoken advocate of women’s rights, a critic of gender biases in the military, and the author of the famous “Lean In”—offers the Navy a new way to connect with the American public, said a Navy spokesman. Sandberg has publicly lauded Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in recent years for empowering military women with new policies, such as an 18-week maternity leave.

She also first used the phrase “lean in,” her way of encouraging women to take on more leadership roles at their places of work, at a lecture at the US Naval Academy in 2011.

“Having a high-profile person like her, I think, really sends a very powerful message,” US congressman Joe Courtney told the AP, adding that he hopes Sandberg will inspire young girls to look into careers in science and technology.

This past September, Sandberg asked military leaders to “champion that equality makes us stronger.” The US Department of Defense has partnered with her nonprofit group to develop small support groups for women in the military, encouraging them to achieve their goals.

Sandberg will sponsor the USS Massachusetts, the newest Virginia-class attack submarine. According to Navy lore, submarine sponsors are meant to inspire a ship with their personalities.