Sheryl Sandberg Can't Have It All

Nov 23, 2018 · 512 comments
Mike O'Neill (PA)
I still think that if her brother didn't run Facebook, Sandberg would be nowhere. She puts up a good front, but is essentially clueless, and probably couldn't get past being a team lead on her own. Any creds she has are based on her husband's death, and her role in her brother's company. I don't see any personal merit there at all.
Michael Richards (Jersey City)
She’s a Washington dirty tricks artist, leveraging her public service to become a billionaire. That’s why she was hired and she delivered.
Lou Good (Page, AZ)
She's not a feminist, she's a capitalist. Every time those worlds collided she went with the money. Nothing necessarily wrong with that but you can't be both at her level. Money and power exact their own demands and your sex has nothing to do with it. See Leona Helmsley and so many others. Look at what they do, not what they say or write.
Avatar (NYS)
Ok so one more phony. Gee I’m shocked. Only men can be self aggrandizing, corporate sleezeballs? She just did it in a way that probably messed up our nation for years, if not permanently. Lean in on that, Sheryl.
Jeff (California)
Facebook is a business. If you don't like its business, don't use Facebook. Feminists want women in the top positions in business and government but they also want them to act like June Cleaver.
Tony (New York City)
Ms. Sandberg is a user and to protect her own name she would sell democracy down the river. Facebook was given the benefit of the doubt and they used it to their advantage . Both she and the CEO laughed at the public around the world . How dare anyone question their expertise. We see them for what they are anti democracy and not to be trusted. Anyone with a mind should get off of the platform Europe is awake and Ms Sandberg is no better than a con artist. Affirmative action has worked for her and of course her priveledged hard work.
Frank Jay (Palm Springs, CA.)
Sandberg is a snake oil salesperson capitalizing on the timing in her personal life to sell herself as a guru of feminist assertiveness and leadership culminating in a book, "Lean In." Her theses are not original but well timed and, above all, well marketed.
Sabrina (San Francisco)
Forget the woman angle. What I find incredibly troubling is the ease with which two prominent Jewish executives were so willing to go down the anti-Semite path to sell out their own. To use anti-Jewish propaganda--under the guise of "globalism" and George Soros-baiting-- to serve the stock prices and reputation (what left of it there is) of Facebook. And they are not alone: Ben Shapiro comes to mind. Steven Miller is another. Who are these people who are so privileged and removed from the real world that they think playing fire with white supremacists and Russian spies by amplifying this kind of rhetoric is a good idea? This is the kind of winning at any cost that damages a nation, makes the rest of us question who the hell is in charge, and wonders if a just society is actually possible when too few people with too much money call the shots. I deleted my Facebook account over six months ago when the extent of the Cambridge Analytica interference came to light. I highly recommend the rest of us do the same. I'm thinking the general perception of treasonous behavior by Facebook executives doesn't quite fit Wall Street's goals for the company. Perhaps a stock plunge, and maybe some jail time, might spur Sandberg and Zuckerberg to eat a desperately needed helping of humble pie.
V (this endangered planet)
As an feminist successfully navigating the corporate world in the 80's and 90's and raising a family I didn't then and still don't buy into the proscriptive "Lean In" nor have I ever considered Sandberg a true feminist. Rather I find her an opportunist who would call herself by any name and hire a ghost writer, all to sell herself as whatever gives her the most cultural capital at the moment. Falling off her perch might do her and the feminist cause some real good.
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
In other words, she's just another corrupt Silicon Valley hack who happened to find him/herself in the center of a gold rush.
Maggie (NC)
Thanks for examinating the complicated nuances of the new infallibility brand of feminism as it applies to Sheryl Sandberg. Are we supposed to believe that once given access to power women are superior rather than equal? Did this notion that ‘women never lie’ come out of the #metoo movement? I found Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher both as smart and as ruthless as any male politician. I think some of the accusations against Al Franken were highly suspect. And precisely because Sandberg is so smart, savvyand accomplished I can only assume she knew full well the corporate culture she was signing onto at Facebook. What’s the big surprise there? The notion of infalibility is coming back to hurt women. Now there is more outrage against Sandberg than Mr Zuckerberg, and Christine Blasey Ford was subjected to humiliating public scrutiny when she never should have been so exposed without lining up the other wittnesses and the ample character record of Mr. Kavanaugh that would have supported her story.
Dino Reno (Reno)
It pains me to defend the corporate tool that is Sandberg, but the notion that she somehow is responsible for the election of Trump because of a few hundred thousand dollars spent on Facebook memes by Russians trolls is laughable. Because the underlying evidence of collusion is so thin, just like in the Mueller investigation against Trump, charges of lying to investigators now become proof of guilt. The irony here being she is caught by the resistance movement which she had been a proud leader of.
Robert (Seattle)
I did not expect Ms. Sandberg to not be shrewd, ambitious, intense, political, calculating, sometimes less than gentle, not always nurturing, and at times a bit egomaniacal. She is, after all, an executive at one of the most powerful companies in the world. Those things are, in a manner of speaking, what she is paid for. At least those things are what it takes to ascend to that level, for better or worse. She was also a lot of things that one does not want to find in an executive. She was easily rattled, amoral, not transparent, dishonest, remarkably hypocritical, and remarkably unprincipled. All in all, she was behaving just like her employer. Sandberg's machinations directly helped the candidacy of Mr. Trump. In doing so, she undermined the wellbeing of all American women and torpedoed the prospects of the first and eminently qualified female candidate for president. In order to protect herself and Facebook, she recently went so far as to use anti-Semitic PR. Throughout the process, she was altogether unconcerned about the wellbeing of our democracy.
Rainy Night (Kingston, WA)
She is one woman in a man’s world. What do you expect? When women are in charge of the entire corporate structure including boards there will be a real change. We simply are smarter, nicer and more worldly than men when we are not outnumbered.
MG (Western MA)
‘Lean In’, translation = women should be as craven and amoral as all of the other “brilliant” business leaders: the heads of GE, Raytheon, Exxon, etc. Burst the glass ceiling and rub appropriately garbed elbows with…Satan? Right idea, wrong endpoint.
Sheila (Pittsburgh)
She was never a feminist, let alone a feminist icon. How is modeling yourself on the patriarchy a feminist move? Yeah, she managed to fit in and move up, and I suppose that fulfilled her personal goals, but it did absolutely zip to dismantle that toxic power structure (ding ding ding! definition of feminism). And now, what a surprise! She acted JUST like any old corporate stooge. Maybe she learned something, but I doubt it.
jb (brooklyn)
Congratulations Sheryl Sandberg, you have taken equality in the workplace and unfettered capitalism to its natural conclusion, corruption.
bersani (East Coast)
Think Ivanka with more money. When will we stop lionizing the wealthy and instead put nurses and teachers and store owners on cultural and political pedestals?
P Wilkinson (Guadalajara, MX)
She has always been just another uber-capitalist jerk. Feminism has to do with judging people on their merits and behaviour, not their genders.
rich williams (long island ny)
Gross is the best way to describe her. Her and Zuckerberg tell lies like water pours from the faucet. Thank you for confirming that their goals are only their own selfish ones. Feminism hijacked, why not? Do not trust a word from them. Stay away from them and their products.
Mike (San Diego)
In short: Identity politics fails. So much confusion derives from those who think men and women, whites and blacks are different somehow. Humans are humans. Their environments; their life stories tell us more about their true selves than sexual or racial identity.
Eric Fisher (Shelton, CT)
Corporate media clings to the myth of the corporate hero: that somehow outsized wealth and power includes moral integrity. Adding faux feminism just is one more layer of the fantasy.
clarice (California)
Well, I never bought the Sheryl Sandberg myth -- rich woman telling us all how to live her way -- so I don't feel much shock now. I find the "it's all Mark's fault" line as phony as those who want to saddle this all on Sandberg. They are both corporate titans who act exactly like corporate titans have acted for ages. No surprise here --- move along. Really, I'm sorry your icon has feet of clay. But, honestly?
Michael Richards (Jersey City)
Sandberg is a classic Washington operative who leveraged her public service to get rich. That’s why Facebook hired her, not because she knows anything about computers or coding. And she deployed a very nasty bag of tricks, the worst sort of the Washington swamp—fake news, slanders against opponents rather than engaging them on the merits of issues, and dirty opposition research. As with everything she does, she was quite thorough, although I’m still a little surprised at what a sleazeball she turned out to be. Hooray! Women’s equality! And then she wraps herself in a feminist label, which helped her nasty tactics go unnoticed and of course makes it harder for real feminist solutions, which address unequal power and fighting discrimination, not sending thank-you notes to serve immoral private monopolies so they-and she—can become billionaires.
Diane Waters (Rome)
What unrealistic expectations to have of Sandberg and of any woman for that matter. When Facebook faced a crisis she "leaned in" to protect the company and herself as any corporate executive would. What else would you have her do? The idea that they put Facebook ahead of democracy is ridiculous. They are trying to deal with the crisis to the best of their abilities, but there are no miracles and nobody could have foreseen this! To put the blame entirely on Facebook, and not the regulators (who incidentally seem to have no understand of social media as we saw in congressional hearings with Zuckerberg) is incredible.
Ines (New York)
I am glad this article was written as it shows that the Sheryl Sandberg propaganda machine is starting to crack. However, I think the author has missed the point. The problem is not that Sandberg is just like a guy. Most guys don't use their extraordinary cerebral power to prop up a robotic bad boy and to build a machine that causes addiction, depression, suicide and the unraveling of democracy all while smiling brightly and talking about "connecting the world". This is bad stuff. The kind you are ashamed about your whole life, assuming you have the capacity to discern right from wrong and the capacity to feel remorse. We know Zuckerberg does not. I guess Sandberg doesn't either. And folks are kind of missing the lede on the feminism as well. It's awesome that Sandberg is COO of a Silicon Valley behemoth. It's awesome that she contributed to the cultural currents that have made feminism in ascendancy again. And it's inspirational that she claimed to leave work at 5pm to have dinner with her kids. And yet, come on people, we can celebrate feminism and extraordinary careers without censoring ourselves right? Here's the biggest canard--Sheryl doesn't really parent her kids right? There's only 24 hours in the day. You can't be COO of a public company, write books, full speaking circuit and be a single mom. When Dave sadly passed, any normal person would have taken it down a couple of notches. A billionaire single mom working 80 hour weeks with full travel?
menick (phx)
As a man who spent 20 years in the tech industry, my great hope for the rise of women in our workplaces was that they would/could transcend the pettiness and self-serving nastiness so typical of their male counterparts....all the tech workplace needed was yet another breed of thinly-camouflaged jerks, whose only scruples centered around their next performance review and from this, their climb onto the next rung of corporate power in this glammed up industry. Instead, it appears by and large as if the women who've risen to prominence field are no better than their pathetic breed of male counterparts and instead of ensuring there's no double standard here, I'd rather insist that there SHOULD BE a double standard, there needs to be a double standard -- women, YOU ARE BETTER THAN know, its not all just about the money, the stock options, the glossy biz press imagery...there is so much more at stake here and in some instances (like Russian disinformation use of the FB platform), the"rightful" path is clear when you put first things first...
Bruce (Chicago)
Sandberg's problem isn't the pedestal. It's what she said and did - and didn't do - while up there.
Kevin Hoyes (Key West)
Ms. Sandberg is yet another hypocritical feminist. Her theory of "leaning in" was always nonsense. And the ideals espoused in that book were always more attuned to a woman with several nannies and personal assistants than the choices faced by poor women across the US. But her actions here, which verge on abetting treason by attempting to thwarting and shame those who would seek to stop Russian interference in American elections--are unconscionable. The fact that she ended up supporting the kind of racist rhetoric of Fox News should be no surprise. It is always the cover up that reveals the true nature of the person. As an aside, when the white working class talk about their hatred of political correctness, this is another example of what they mean. The personal enrichment of someone who says the right thing while shafting America as they say it.
William (Boston)
The only thing Sheryl leaned in on was...... -Greed -Hypocrisy -Complicity -Indifference -Self Absorption Delete Facebook Delete Facebook Delete Facebook Enough Said.
redweather (Atlanta)
One of the leading NYTimes Pick puts it succinctly: "This just in: women are human." However, women have been suggesting for quite some time now that if they hadn't for so long been "denied a seat at the table," the world wouldn't be in the mess it's in. And to question that, especially for men, was a very risky proposition and would quite likely open them to charges of gender bias, or worse, misogyny. No matter how righteous we may feel about a cause, and no matter how genuine we may believe our leaders to be, it is always a good idea to temper our criticism of the opposition lest we discover we aren't all that different, if different at all.
Stephen Marcus (Long Island City, N.Y.)
Why would anyone believe that Sandburg would ultimately be any different than a man who rose to the top in Silicon Valley? She’s a person first, male or female doesn’t matter. You don’t get there by being nice or warm and fuzzy. You must have killer instincts and huge ambitions.
Glenn Franco Simmons (Cupertino, Calif.)
The irony is that two prominent Jewish tech giants allowed their company to engage in age-old anti-Semitic tropes. The indecency of this anti-Semitism should be taken at face-value. In other words, no excuses. Facebook was founded by a brilliant Jew, but it inexplicably allowed itself a newfound and nefarious legacy of anti-Semitism that looms over it. Facebook is now a part of the malevolent fraternity that includes so many other unscrupulous anti-Semitic companies that have, through the decades over the past 150 years, unfortunately and unabashedly engaged in anti-Semitism. The fact that virulent anti-Semitism, including violence, is making a comeback, makes Facebook's anti-Semitic transgressions even more disconcerting, and, shall I say, almost unforgivable?
Rm (Worcester, MA)
It is a shame that both Sandberg and Zuckerberg are phoney. They disguise as progressives. But the truth is they only care about their srock price and bonus. They knew exactly what was going on during 2016 election. The con man pathological liar child bully is now in the White House because of the help from Facebook. Both of them closed their eyes as money was floating from the fake news trolls. There were many recommendations to fix the problem- but they did not do anything to fix them since it would be bad for their business model.
Robert Henry Eller (Portland, Oregon)
That thinly veiled sneer on Sandberg's face reflects exactly what she thinks of and how much she cares about the rest of us, including the 2 billion Facebook subscribers. But don't leave Facebook. Instead, stay on Facebook, make noise, and take her and her ilk down.
RP (New Jersey)
When my white professional women friends flocked to Sandberg book tour events to take notes they could pass on to their daughters I told them she was a fraud. There's nothing wrong with leaning out, I countered, or ducking the corporate patriarchy altogether, to create your own alternatives. In the 80s women wore big shouldered suits while marching off to emulate male power in the corporate workplace. Sandberg was just a California version of that perverted simulacrum.
gman (piedmont)
Lean in? How about "Own up".
Catherine Fast (Port Moody, BC)
Interesting juxtaposition of an oped pointing out how everyone is dog piling on Cheryl while Mark is getting a bit of a pass with this piece pointing out that she is just like everyone else and this is somehow terribly disappointing. I long for the day when we stop holding women to a higher standard.
Vesuviano (Altadena, California)
Perhaps because I have nothing to do with the world of Facebook or social media, I hadn't even heard of this sad woman until a couple of weeks ago. She seems to be just another corporate greed-head without a conscience.
suzanne (New York, NY)
Facebook is just another greedy American corporation interested only in itself. Why is this a news flash?? Corporations don't take responsibility for their wrongdoing. That's the American way. Duh.
WmC (Lowertown, MN)
"Lean In"was a self-help book. More of a help to its author, unfortunately, than to its reader.
Matthew O'Brien (San Jose, CA)
Why make the issue one of the gender of Sheryl Sandberg? The issue is that Facebook is an entirely sleazy company, led by sleazy people. Who cares their gender?
Matt (Tucson, AZ)
"What makes Sandberg’s current behavior so unsavory is that she put corporate interests — and her own image — ahead of the needs of democracy." I think this is really the larger message, indeed the thesis, of the Facebook-specific debacle. It happens that this particular incident shows corporate interest hard up against the interests of a democratic society, in very sharp contrast. This type of situation occurs every day in every corporate meeting room, to one degree or another, and the effects of the resolution of any given conflict fall along a broad spectrum of transgressions, major and minor. The assault by lobbyists upon the legislative representatives in government, and their responses to such, are simply another facet of the same corporate vs. democratic interest conflict. As noted by others, Ms. Sandberg is human, and a corporate executive, so what else can one expect? It is simply rare to see this kind of conflict in such stark relief.
Sparky (NYC)
How disappointing that Ms. Senior is playing the gender card. It turns out Sandberg is a deceitful, dishonest manipulator who cares only about her personal reputation and her company's short-term goals. Her belief system is me, me, me. More, more, more. This hardly makes her unique in the corporate world, but why muddy the waters by talking about her gender? As a woman, was it impossible for her to choose differently? If not, then tossing around her gender simply creates an excuse for her awful behavior. Let's hold all people to the same standard, black, white, male, female, etc. Ms. Sandberg isn't a failure as a woman. She's a failure as a person.
elained (Cary, NC)
She had no pedestal from me. She's doing what anyone in her position would do, protecting her corporate interests at all costs. One day, women will not be singled out solely because they are women, and then be expected to somehow transcend human nature. Move along, nothing special here.
Achilles (Edgewater, NJ)
Jennifer seems to be upset that Sandberg behaved like the ultimate progressive enemy, a white man, to get to the top of Facebook. Perhaps Jennifer has spent too much time in the unicorn and rainbow world of online progressive feminism, where evil can only be created by The Patriarchy, and where women (at least Democratic ones) are the source of nobility and enlightenment on the planet. Update for Jennifer: its a rough world out there, and Sandberg played to win. And maybe Bhutto and Clinton didn't focus on health care and other nice things because they actually didn't care. Women are human. Deal with it.
Denis Lapierre (Canada)
Not a bad article until the end when the author blames Mark Zuckerberg. This belief of “having it all” deflects accountability. If I can have it all and I don’t get something that I want, it must be someone else’s fault. Women can have anything, but not everything. Choices are made and these choices lead to different results. In my 30 year career I have seen many male and female leaders at various levels, and frankly I have never seen gender based differences. Do people with certain behaviour types gravitate to certain roles or do the roles change people - not sure.
Mary King (Portland, OR)
Who thinks Sheryl Sandberg is an important, influential feminist icon?!?!?! Nobody who pays any real attention to feminism or the women's movement.
Sheryl Sandburg and Mark Zuckerburg have marketed the idea of “community” while destroying the actual physical communities around them, in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Not to mention the larger community of the U.S.A. They’re three card monte hucksters, no better than Trump himself. Why anyone ever bought what Sandburg was selling the first and second times, especially when she was dripping with faux treacly sadness and wisdom over the loss of her husband, as if she was the first person to have experienced and discovered loss, is a mystery. Even more mysterious is why the media fell for it, hook line and sinker.
dmckj (Maine) had me half-agreeing until you scapegoated Zuckerberg at the very end. So....women are responsible and meritorious until, upon failing at something, it then becomes the man's fault? The fact that modern feminism has become so rote is a clue to its current state dysfunction.
doug (tomkins cove, ny)
When Sandberg started regularly showing up on Morning Joe with Mika Brzezinski fawning over her in almost evangelical rapture I grew skeptical. It’s one thing to support and encourage women in the work place but Sandberg was elevated to almost saintly status by writing and flogging a Dale Carnegieseque tome to further raise her profile vs providing salient advise for aspirational women. Mika and her now carnival like “Know your Worth” road show is just an extension of Sandberg’s snake oil program.
NorthA (Toronto, Ontario)
I hated what Facebook was doing to our world and asked them to stop fake news and to get out of the news business entirely. I knew Sandberg was behind all this yet I bought all her books. I thought of her as the biggest winner and kicked myself when I couldn't overcome #meToo moments. Thanks to the NYTIMES she has been peeled back and exposed to be a complete fraud with no redeeming features. I wanted to believe in her but she completely blew it. She is now a pariah. I have donated her books to Value Village and doubt they will be resold.
Matt D (The Bronx)
Sandberg’s idea of feminism is that women should act more like men. Um... No thanks. Men have already done enough damage, we don't need women to start acting like them too.
Bob (Boston)
Sheryl did her job. It is sexist to be surprised at this.
susan anawalt (california)
Integrity on any level is paramount. Sandburg is operating from an elite position of power. Such status requires more from a person. Social Media is here to stay, but not to enjoy unbridled power I hope. One opinion mentions the importance of "connecting" that FB does. It's only now we learn at what a price to our privacy and to our security. I am grateful that this criticism includes women as well as men. Sue
steve (corvallis)
Sandberg's goal is no different than any other corporate executive: More Money, More Power. Why would anyone have ever believed otherwise?
Kelly Grace Smith (Fayetteville, NY)
Sandberg's book encouraged women to "lean in" and do business...just like men; to adapt to male-oriented paradigms, perceptions, and beliefs about what is "good business" and what creates success. Women's value to the business world - to any arena - is what we bring to the women. Why wouldn't you want the gender that represents 50+% of the population at the table? When you stand outside the box...that posture makes absolutely no sense. Sandberg's formula was destined to fail...because it was more of the same. I'll bet a balance of men and women at the table would not only work well, but would support the country, the move in a more balanced, successful, and humane direction.
Rebecca (New York, NY)
The social nature of Facebook is what made it attractive to users in the first place but it needed to show Wall Street once it went public that it could make money because that’s all investors cared about. The honorable thing to do would’ve been to create a subscription service that users would pay for but who in the world is really going to subscribe to socialize on a website? So Facebook had no choice but to sell targeted advertising and audiences in an effort to make money. And then when Wall Street wasn’t in fact buying the notion of targeted advertising alone funding the site, they had to get creative. It would cost too much money to create an in-house solution alone to do that so they allowed back end developers to access their data and create apps to target them, their friends, and their friends’ friends. That caused the proliferation of questionable news and videos clogging up users feeds with some people believing these posts to the point that scheming analytics companies and Russian content farms could tap into the inner psyche of a huge portion of Facebook’s user base and influence the U.S. election. If it weren’t for that, Facebook would have continued this business as usual. Sheryl Sandberg 21st century feminist icon image wouldn’t be melting before our eyes. You don’t get to that perch in life without being shrewd and calculating but nobody’s interested in a first-person female narrative of that. And do we blame her for this or do we blame ourselves?
PMIGuy (Virginia)
Until Amazon, Facebook, Google et al are regulated as they should be, as media conglomerates bound by the same rules as Disney/ABC or Comcast/NBC then this subversion of the public discourse and marketplace will continue. Facebook is a behemoth running wild, free of ethical and moral anchors and its leaders have become near parodies of a SNL skit: craven, money and influence-driven megalomaniacs. Whatever ones political beliefs it is time for Congress to step in regulate these animals before they devour any semblance of discourse, fairness and choice from American society.
Publicus (Newark)
The answer to the question: “Is it realistic to expect her to behave more morally than male executives?” Is a resounding yes. That was one of the main reasons given by feminists in the 60’s and 70’s for putting more women in power. The failure in feminist theology was the premise that the qualities that made women different from men, collaboration, morality and sensitivity, would make men change for the better with more women in positions of power. Men would become more like women. Instead, women, in order to be successful in a “man’s world,” have taken on the same negative characteristics themselves that they criticized men for.
rhdelp (Monroe GA)
Sheryl Sandberg and Ivanka Trump have more in common than most would suspect. Excellent self promoters, their priorities are power and money. Exploiting others even changing the course of history behind the scenes for personal gain not for the benefit of society gives new meaning to leaning in, more like grabbing in.
Andrew (NYC)
There are two angles to this opinion piece: One addresses the contradictions in a woman who aspires to be a role model to other women who are navigating a male dominated business world The other angle is the contradictions in social media’s platforms that were marketed as powerful tools for dialogue and democratic empowerment but which have been used on a massive scale as efficient vectors for disinformation and divisiveness. While Ms Sandberg has accomplished a tremendous amount she has the very human flaw of resisting unpleasant and inconvenient facts that would call into question the fundamentals of her business strategy. Everyone makes mistakes. If Ms Sandberg can recognize that systemic change is the only option for social media platforms, she may continue to enjoy success. If she doesn’t, her leadership days are numbered.
Cynthia, PhD (CA)
Senior gets one point very wrong in this article: in Lean In Sandberg doesn't say that female inhibitions are the sole "impediments to female advancement." In the book, Sandberg cites scores of academic studies that show that implicit biases from others--bosses; job interviewers; co-workers; employees who report to women--create double standards and workplace contradictions that make female leadership far more difficult, if not impossible, than male leadership. She also points to female-versus-female Queen Bee toxicity that means females also derail other women from becoming corporate leaders; political leaders; social leaders. The title, "Lean In," is only one part of the puzzle of how female can climb the corporate ladder, and Sandberg is quite open in admitting that many factors are structural and outside the direct control of women--inhibitions or no inhibitions. Senior needs to read the book more carefully.
Macchiato (Canada)
If, as Sandberg says, FB is all about connecting people, why not charge each of its one billion members $1 per year. That's one billion bucks. Clearly, it's about so much more.
Tabula Rasa (Monterey Bay)
The masks and personas are a natural chameleon attire. Expect nothing less that self-serving gravitas and grit to lean into the loot. C-Suite machinations and intrigue are the pot boiler to be published soon. The ghost writer as been a fly on the wall to the Beverly Hills meets Menlo Park 94025. There are Cliques, Houses, Pedigrees, Families and Tribes within the Campus/Compound. Think of it as a constant running of the Palio di Siena.
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
@Tabula Rasa Unfortunately that FB palio di Siena is being projected as a model out into the larger world, where the FB palio's echo is too often closer to a medieval bloodbath than a tourist-friendly spectacle of folkloric fun and games.
J Raymond (Silver Spring)
Oh for pity's sake--in no world of serious feminists is Sheryl Sandberg a feminist icon. "But oh, how I want to make sure that Sandberg isn’t unfairly held to double standards!" Well, nobody likes double standards, (does Senor assume that would save the rest of us from being held to them?) but why are we worried about Sheryl Sandberg at all? She's going to be just fine, she doesn't need any of us, she doesn't care about anything but her own skin, and she doesn't represent more than .01% of us. But oh, she apologized! Well, glory be. Let me get this straight: all this comes out about Facebook and we're still supposed to think anything positive about Sandberg--because she's a woman? In what world does that make sense? One comment here suggests, "women are human." So that's why Sandberg pulled all that stuff--because she's human? Nothing in the recent revelations about FB and her role in what they did is anything I can imagine anyone I know and respect finding acceptable. Why is it so difficult to discern all this faux-feminism from the real thing?
S T (Nc)
That rather depends on your definition of feminism, doesn’t it? Mine, for instance, seems to be very different from that of those women who witter on endlessly about intersectionalism etc. etc. etc.
Anne (Toronto )
The kind of comments in response to this article - and the same kind of criticism - was what lost Clinton the presidency. It wasn't emails. It wasn't Russia. It was the judgement that these women are somehow plastic, fake and not real. That by putting aside all other wants and focusing on their career (and the politicking involved) somehow made them less human and relatable. That by not championing for daycares and maternity leave and subscribing to their assigned gender role that they've let society down. Gender discrimination is exactly what happens in this article and as a result of articles like this. No one seems to understand that only these types of women have been allowed to ascend to the upper echelons of society, and our initial reaction is to pull them down for not being 'woman' enough.
Cynthia, PhD (CA)
@Anne Great point! Successful women are ostensibly "fake." Adapting to new circumstances shows "inauthenticity." Navigating workplace contradictions related to female leadership shows "plasticity." This criticism is illogical and stems from the binary hierarchy that privileges natural over unnatural, and this is founded on essentialist beliefs that women and men are biologically different. What's wrong with being "inauthentic"? Sandberg talks about how some days it is necessary to smile even if one doesn't feel smiley. Adam Grant said the same thing in several articles. So does Herminia Ibarra. I think the reversal of this binary hierarchy works much better: let's be inauthentic when we need to move in new directions. Much of life requires change. The mistaken belief in "authenticity" is simply a rationalization for staying in one's comfort zone since one is too scared to move outside in a brave new world.
The entire premise of Facebook - the mining and selling of its contributor's data - is unethical. We shouldn't expect its top executives to act ethically or selfless.
Dotconnector (New York)
If there's one word that has been seriously devalued in our society, it's "icon," and Sheryl Sandberg is living proof.
John (NYC)
At its heart this is all about the tactical and strategic game of grabbing for power that's being expressed by the individual. Male, female, it really makes no difference. It's entirely human in its range of expression. Some express it with enlightened subtlety, honesty and finesse; others with avarice, subterfuge and greed. None of it has anything to do with the sex of the person. Neither, too, the ethical merits and considerations in the manner in which they pursue their course. Unfortunately, for most of those so engaged it seems ethics are the first thing jettisoned in the pursuit of their dreams of Power. I say "most" because it must be more common than not; else Shakespeare wouldn't have been the successful writer he was. It's a human peccadillo we all share in varying degrees, isn't it? Most just don't go on to have theirs broadcast, to their ultimate embarrassment, to the societal moon and stars like Sheryl Sandberg is now experiencing. So it goes. John~ American Net'Zen
It seems that the new young leadership of high tech can be as as corrupt as any from the Gilded Age. This group new newly minted billionaires is prone to corruption, obfuscation, chicanery, and self aggrandizement as any other generation. These fresh new faces harbor a greed and lack of morality and feelings of gratitude to their country that rival the worst of any time..perhaps worse since they had the others to learn from and grow into better people, especially with the resources they have acquired. very sad for all of us......
Jimmy Lin (New York)
Power corrupts gender neutrally. That Ms Sanderberg used Machiavellian means to protect Facebook does eat away at the company’s “here to connect humanity and make the world a better place” self-image but it is rather true to her personal message of “leaning in” and advancing her own interests without regards for cultural norms specific to gender. This article mixes up these two different topics and somehow also manages to take a low blow at Ms Sandberg’s book about handling the loss of her husband.
Melissa Hudson (Canada)
This makes me admire her more. I really dislike that women are somehow supposed to be “carers” in the workplace. She doesn’t seem ruthless, but tough when she needs to be. How is this different from successful men? And you never sabotage your boss in a Board meeting, ever. I’m surprised he only got yelled at. He’s lucky he wasn’t shown the door.
menick (phx)
Uh he was basically shown the door, FOR TELLING THE TRUTH....I don't care what gender Sheryl Sandberg is....but loyal American citizen is no longer a descriptor I'd use to characterize her.
James (LA)
If Sheryl really wants to lean in and do something positive she should quit Facebook. She could stop posing as a do good feminist, she’s as rapacious as the next guy. Selling out our elections and personal data are not good deeds, and they happened on her watch.
Michael Richards (Jersey City)
Yes and she’s already made her billion.
Iris (CA)
@James "Rapacious"? Are you a monk living in zen like simplicity? If not, then "rapacious" is a hyperbolic overstep. I am a good feminist, and I consider Sandberg a feminist icon. It's okay to want to have power and to have money. Take the socialism down a notch.
BobbNT (Philadelphia, PA)
Never bought the "lean in" stuff as so many did perpetuating a false narrative. Saw it for what it was...a PR stunt to promote the ego, status, pocketbook , and myth of Sheryl Sandberg. If she were a genuine corporate genius, instead of spending so much time spinning her own image with a sophomoric book and premise, she might have approached her position at Facebook with the morality and professional responsibility such a position deserved and warranted. She would still be very very rich and she might have clean hands. Were she a man, I would say the same thing. Thinking Mark Z in fact!
Frank (NYC)
I suspect that all this anger about FB is misplaced. They didn’t lose the election, HRC did. Had she run a better campaign she would have been able to counter truly “fake news” against a lying, corrupt candidate. Yes FB was focused most on its business. DJT has damaged democracy. Russia has, too. FB only did because HRC failed to do her job, which any decent candidate should have done - beating Trump in 2016.
AKN (San Francisco)
So I guess when “it” hits the fan and you’re caught Sandberg’s recommended game plan is “Lean Out” and throw some (we’ll compensated) underlings under the bus. If we are to truly have equality then she needs to be held to account just as much as we would want a male executive (e.g. Zuckerberg) taken to task. I find both of them morally repugnant regardless of gender, race, etc... that’s just as part of equality as equal pay
common sense advocate (CT)
Belittling Sandberg's grief about her husband's death, neglecting to include Bhutto's assassination, spotlighting Clinton's vote for the Iraq war without mentioning Cheney and Bush's lies about weapons of mass destruction - all of this has a slanted journalism feel - because the full truth would have made the narrative trail bumpier in this column. Instead, the column is a smoother story, with clearly cast villainesses. The moral of the story for these three women spotlighted - and for Ms Senior penning this column, too - there are no shortcuts, and the toughness required to break a glass ceiling must ALWAYS be tempered with morality.
Hopeful (Florida)
Thank you for this great piece. So setting aside the thorny issues of wealth and femenism question is why are people like Sandberg not charged with treason or espionage? Why is it that we just find it “lamentable” that Facebook allowed the Russians to use Facebook to throw America’s Presidential election. What is the difference between Russia planting a spy at Facebook to help throw the election and Sandberg allowing it to happen. Or another example why was/is the US government all over Edward Snowden when what Sandberg and Others in Facebook did resulted in far more serious consequences than what Snowden did.
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
Wow, why all the backlash against Sheryl Sandberg on this issue of public persona? I mean, the last thing that Facebook is about is being aware of, and curating, the image of yourself that gets presented to the world, right?
BackHandSpin (SoCal)
Sandberg showed her true colors. The book tours a few years ago were (admit it) a little nauseating. Praise me , love me. The writer drops in a few 1960's era observations; " male executives of course, deploy such calculating tactics all the time." And, "when obstacles to female advancement can seem as high as the moon." Just keep pounding those stereotypes. No mention of each person's values or integrity. It's all about power and money. America ! We're #1 in therapy, heart attcks, stress, suicide.
Walter (California)
Sandberg has nothing to offer women overall. I'm a gay man, a feminist, and probably a year or two older than her. Give me a break. She is conflating business success with equality. Frankly, it makes me sick. Nobody should listen to her.
Iris (CA)
@Walter I am a long-time feminist, and I think Sheryl Sandberg has a lot to offer all feminists--young and old; gay and straight; male and female. Glass ceilings have been identified as a problem by many feminists, and female leadership in many industries is lagging. In what way is this not a feminist issue? What is your definition of "feminism" if you don't identify leadership equality in all industries as related to equality between men and women in the world? If you like being poor and powerless, then that is your choice, but many women would like to have leadership positions and the glass ceilings are due to structural and social barriers that are preventing that reasoned promotions. Not everyone believes being poor and powerless makes one more "real" than leaders who are rich and powerful. No the meek shall not inherit the earth.
Tom Baroli (California)
When’s the last time you used yahoo? Facebook could be gone and forgotten in the blink of an eye.
Eastsider (New York City)
Ms. Senior makes a strange statement in this article: "Why do we assume female leaders are inherently gentler and less egomaniacal?" Maybe Senior naively made that assumption, but no-one male or female, either familiar with history or experienced in working for an organization--corporate, non-profit, academic or government--would make this assumption. If you are in a power structure, you must focus on and wield power. The most ruthless and two-faced manager I ever had was a female; she was very successful (she was also not very competent.) The most compassionate and wise, also successful, manager I ever had was a male. The point about sexism is that it stereotypes men and women. Ms. Senior's sexist stereotype is shattered and she is disappointed. All leaders need a persona or facade. Sheryl Sandberg chose a clever one of compassionate feminism and some naive people were taken in. If we want to look at female leaders, we could do worse than study Catherine the Great: she colluded in the murder of her husband to illegally take over the throne of Russia, destroyed a country (Poland), and was war-like and violently anti-Semitic. She established the Pale of Settlement in Russia with its cruel laws. It excluded Jews from large areas of the country for almost a century. A model of compassionate leadership? Ms. Senior needs to do some homework!
Steve (Minneapolis)
Sandberg is less a study in female advancement and more a study in human greed. Like many executives, she and Zuckerberg put profit and their personal wealth above all else, sold out their customers and country, and now their website stock is broken, down 40%! Being a billionaire wasn't enough. They needed more.
Peggysmom (NYC)
Perhaps it would have worked better for her had she portrayed herself as the same humble nerd as MZ. He is a good actor who would be typecast by Hollywood
A. Simon (NY, NY)
Facebook puts users into a Skinner Box where they end up conforming and dulling themselves down for Likes. Sad. I never got the hype about Sandberg. Listening to her speak a couple of times left me bored, a little cold, and even sad. We were celebrating Newspeak instead of reviling it. Perfectly Poised and Happy, Excited, Upbeat Sandberg. Ivanka Trump does Newspeak too, using the breathy whispering approach with hair twirl. What happened to us? Both of these women market themselves as feminists, and we let them.
ME (Menlo Park, CA)
Imagine how great things could have turned out for her and the rest of us if this woman actually had any intellectual depth. - After all, she did get a lot of people to listen to her.
heinrich zwahlen (brooklyn)
At the end of the day it’s just all about money.
Maureen S (Franklin MA)
Male /Female does not matter when it comes to morality and principals. Women lie as easily as men and are just as quick to blame others. Some is us never bought what she was selling.
Independent (the South)
I don't admire anyone who puts money over morals. Be it man or woman.
Bogey Yogi (Vancouver)
Can someone explain to me what exactly is ,”having it all?” Sheryl is rich, intelligent, healthy and probably has a good family life. From my end, she does have it all.
Me (Here)
We expect absolutism from each other and allow room for error in ourselves. Who among us hasn't been rattled at work, quick tempered with a co-worker under pressure, behaved in ways antithetical to our values and belief system?! To use a food analogy, who among us has strictly adhered to an unalloyed diet of plants and whole grains without ever once eating a jelly donut...or two?! There is no such entity - human or woman - who is an absolute: absolutely professional, absolutely saintly, absolutely ethical, absolutely selfless. It simply does not and can not exist. What matters here is scale and perception. The scale of the consequences of the unethical and selfish choices that were made by Sandberg and Co. and the carefully crafted perception of Sandberg that stands at odds with her deceptive maneuvering and treatment of naysayers. This is what is unforgivable. We all have traces of jelly donut smeared on our faces and hands now and again but when the jelly stains our pristine image of Sandberg, it is particularly ugly and impossible to look away from.
Barbarra (Los Angeles)
Corporate life is a game - a money making is a game of survival - of toeing the corporate line. Both men and women need to play or you are out. Facebook is not some gift to humanity - it sells - people and information. It exploits. Take the 2016 election. Time to pay the price.
PJ Atlas (Chicago, Illinois)
I could never relate to her and her very privileged upbringing. Very different from my own background and I found her book with a disconnect to this who have had real struggles. Leaning out.
Kingston Cole (San Rafael, CA)
After this read, I have to say the rose-tinted glasses, so carefully welded on to Ms. Sandberg's image by the media, have been torn asunder. I sorta like her "tough cookie" act, but am not surprised. Hope she is chastened but recovers...The Zuck should get the boot and let her take over.
Nima (Toronto)
Why? Why would she act any differently as the CEO from Zuckerberg? CEOs have a responsibility to perform, specially maximizing profits. If you wanna change behaviour, you need to change the institution not just the gender of the commander in chief, be they CEO or POTUS
This is precisely why you shouldn't seek heroes or idols. She's just a person with her own vested interest which she protects by acting in way that she deems most conducive. She has no obligation to "represent women". Her only obligation is to herself and her employers.
j (nj)
I am a widow myself and widowed at an age similar to Sandberg. Being widowed is a sad and humbling experience. The rules I thought I knew no longer applied and I found myself adrift, in my own grief and in my search for a new path. But what I also learned was that my experience was not unique, and it is the story of many other nameless women. I would caution those who lionize Sandberg to see her for what she is: a woman and an opportunist. She has made herself a product, Woman Inc, in the case of Lean In, and Widow Inc, in the case of Plan B. In doing so, she has opened herself up to closer scrutiny. Widowhood is devastating for both the loss of a life partner and too often, the loss of financial security. Sandberg never had to deal with the second issue, which turns out to be relevant to most widows. Sandberg is simply a mortal woman, with faults like everyone else, and who makes mistakes, like everyone else. That said, it is the truly intelligent among us who is able to push aside ego and learn from mistakes. Whether she is capable of that remains to be seen.
Paul M. (Chicago, IL)
"This is a woman who thought strategically about prom." The writer calls this act "one of the most revealing in the book." What does it reveal? That as a high school senior she wanted to improve her chances (in her 17 year- old mind) of going to the prom? She wasn't 49 then, and priorities change. Wanting to go the prom when you are 17 seems to me to be a perfectly good reason to tweak your resume.
BHB (Brooklyn, NY)
The only part of this article I would quibble with is the idea that Sheryl Sandberg was ever a "towering feminist." (Please.) I mean, I guess someone did, or she wouldn't have sold so many books. But for those of us on the left, she was always the ultimate, play-by-the-rules Corporate Feminist, which is to say--not a feminist at that. Until we stop celebrating people simply for making a lot of money (see Donald Trump), this country is doomed.
Melissa Hudson (Canada)
Sorry, but I’m a Corporate Feminist. Only now comfortable saying “feminist” since Trump has taken over. I would call myself a liberal feminist, if only to differentiate myself from what “feminism” came to represent in the last 30 years....crushing and ideological (In the worst way) thought police. They have scared off so many women with whom they could otherwise have formed a powerful coalition. What a waste.
Alexis (Portland, OR)
Sandberg is to feminism as Trump is to business acumen - all thanks to breathless media coverage.
Doug (Mojave)
They were so obsessed with whether they could break things, they never stopped to ask whether they should. It was all about growing Facebook, defeating or absorbing rivals, and making as much money as they possible. Growth became an end onto itself. Zuck's entire adult life has been Facebook. He probably lacks the background to fully understand -- or even care about -- the negative impacts of his creation. Sandberg held high-level positions in DC before moving to Silicon Valley to get rich. She was successful in convincing Congress not to regulate the company. Facebook could do pretty much what it wanted, having bought off Congress. When the crises came, her response was typical DC coverup: deny, deflect, defend, mimimize, obscure. As with so many Washington scandals, it then became drip drip drip interrupted by the periodic downpour like The Times investigation. The DC crisis management approach produces absurd sequences like this: I just found out we hired Definers. Someone on the comms team hired them. We don't know who. Oh, it was the head of the comms team...gosh, maybe we should have asked him earlier. Oh, he happens to be leaving. How convenient he can take the blame. We fired Definers. Let's move on. More evidence surfaces and then it's.... Oh,'ll never believe what I just discovered. I DID know we had hired Definers. Some stuff "crossed my desk" and I got some emails about them. Only a small number though. How small? We'll get back to you.
This article tries—but fails—to provide a nuanced and thoughtful dissertation on Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook's recent transgressions reveal much about Sheryl's superficial feminism. They reveal that reputation, power, and growth are paramount to her and Mark; both refused to attack the main sources of power to make society truly more equal and “open.” Instead of lobbying for equal pay laws, transparent hiring and salary practices, and transparent use of individual data, they chose to do the opposite—mainly because doing so would ruin their reputations and undercut their power. How is this superficiality related to Facebook’s current dilemma? See the Times’ initial article on Sheryl's angry statement: "You threw us under the bus." This quote is notable not because Sheryl was annoyed and rude; she, like anyone in high-stress situations, is prone to flashes of emotional release. Rightfully, she was annoyed that an employee had exposed the company to legal ramifications. Rather, her statement is meaningful because of its underlying intent, shown through her decisions to hide, thwart, distract, and bury news that tarnish their reputations. If Sheryl and Mark were both truly interested in connecting the world and improving democracy, they would have tried to smear their enemies. That is why Sheryl's response is so disappointing—it reveals her, Mark’s, and perhaps our own inability to look past convenient half-truths and instead focus on fixing intricate social ills.
Kung Fu Kitty (Somewhere out there)
Reading this article before reading Swisher's article would have been a good idea. In my humble opinion, Sheryl Sandberg was just doing her job, to protect Facebook and keep the ship afloat. Of course, she could have made different choices. Honestly though, who can really identify with her responsibilities? Facebook isn't a mom and pop corner store where you can refund money for the spoiled just isn't that simple folks. Also, who knows how many crises she has had to stare down in the interest of saving Facebook's bottom line? This one probably just seemed to be another one in a long line of problems. Now, to be sure, the consequences of Facebook's inaction were monumental with respect to the 2016 election. The impact cannot be underestimated.... that being said, it is unfair to judge Ms. Sandberg more harshly because she was placed on a pedestal by the readers of her book. Don't be angry because her marketing department did it's job. Also, as I stated in a comment for the Swisher article, did anyone really believe Sheryl Sandberg became COO of Facebook by smelling of 'sugar and spice and all things nice'? No, she used her skills to get to the top. Why wouldn't she use those same skills to salvage the company when it was caught with the barn door open, horses asunder? She did what she always does....she leaned in.
FNL (Philadelphia)
I find it ironic that the author seeks to hold Ms Sandberg accountable for the failures of Facebook while perpetuating the myth that Hillary Clinton was not responsible for the failure of her own bid for the Presidency.
Paul (DC)
Very well said. Always saw her as a sell promoting hustler, albeit a smart one.
MAL (San Antonio)
"Republicans, and President Trump in particular, remain convinced that Facebook quashes conservative content." "Convinced"? Ms. Senior is being charitable. They don't know if it is true, and they don't care one way or another. This is what Bill Kristol referred to as "working the refs."
B.Sharp (Cinciknnati)
Jennifer Senior, actually Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are Billionaires many times over , there should be no excuse for their failures. We do hold both responsible for their failure of protecting the patrons. People from all over the world connect through FB with their friends and relatives. Sheryl Sandberg first and foremost is a business woman, came on board much later for the purpose of making the site stronger. Yes, she happens to be a woman is secondary factor. I see fake names and multiple profiles all over the FB which should never be allowed. Then the 2016 election manipulation among other things the results could not be reversed.
hdtvpete (Newark Airport)
This story reminds me of the old Steve Martin joke routine: How to be a millionaire and never pay taxes. (1) First, get a million dollars. (2), Then, when the IRS asks why you didn't pay any taxes, you say, "I Forgot!" It's always easy for people who got to the top relatively quickly to give advice to others about getting to the top. But when you start the climb well on your way, that's quite an advantage. And Sheryl Sandberg did start out with advantages. She is a seasoned political animal and her response to the Facebook crisis is textbook all the way - misdirection and damage control. She has a lot to lose and I think "do the right thing" is getting trampled by "save face at all costs." Forget leaning in. How about standing tall?
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
"She was a feminist leader, corporate path-breaker and spiritual superempath all rolled into one. A Gloria Steinem-Amelia Earhart-Oprah Winfrey Thanksgiving turducken." Newsflash, Sheryl Sandberg walks on water when it's ice just like the rest of us. She is not a miracle worker. She is not a saint. She's not even a feminist. What she is is an opportunist. We need to be careful who we appoint as our heroes and why. She is not mine. She lost her husband. So do many other women who don't have her resources to help them through the grieving, the financial piece, keeping body and soul together. Her lean in is for the rich woman not most women. Tear down the pedestal and see her as she is: a human being with the same flaws as the rest of us with a few extra ones thrown in because she's got more money than most of us will ever see.
@hen3ry This isn't just about Sheryl Sandberg, "feminist" or not. It's about lack of authenticity and greed on the part of Facebook as an organization. It's about a serious problem with the way business has been conducted. Sheryl Sandberg would sincerely say that she is indeed in favor of the betterment of women in the workplace at Facebook or any other place. And maybe if she had a true voice in the situation, which perhaps she was never given, she might have made better choices. The main point here, it seems to me, is that Facebook lacks a moral compass. Both the yin and yang, female and male leadership, is off kilter here.
Rovanne (seattle)
Facebook facilitates discriminatory ads. Will Sandberg and Zuckerberg deny knowing about that too?
Kathleen (Oakland, California)
I am a an elderly feminist who spent 30 years in large corporations and I have found Sandberg to be very unconvincing as a true humanist and advocate for good. I am not surprised by what we are seeing as her true colors.
Tricia (California)
As Scott Galloway says, although she needs to be fired, she won’t be because she is in a protected class. This is a dangerous precedent. Are we now going to allow corruption if carried out by someone other than a white male? It is time for someone to come up with an alternate to FB that doesn’t sell its users down the river.
Horace Dewey (NYC)
The Sandberg story highlights a larger question: why do we so quickly buy into a cardboard take on human nature rather than acknowledge the complexity and contradictions that we all share? Life is messy. We are messy. All gloriously messy.
John lebaron (ma)
The examples of female leadership in the corporate world are few, so we do not know whether or not they would be kinder, gentler, more ethically centered, or just plain better business people. We can take some guidance, however, from the world of politics where the examples are more numerous but still too few. There we see the full gamut of leadership skill and moral character just as we do with men. Of course, there are more knaves among the men primarily because there are more men in the first place. After our experience with such figures as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn and Virginia Foxx, we should know by now that the best candidates irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference deserve our voting support. It's as simple as that, but that said we really need to get much closer to parity between the genders in our elected offices than we are now. Happily, we seem to be headed in the right direction.
anonymouse (Seattle)
The women who Silicon Valley love -- smart, pedigreed, beautiful, inexperienced, rocket-ship-riding, rudderless, and most of all, go-along-get-along. That's the status of women in Silicon Valley.
ibivi (Toronto)
@anonymouse sadly that is not what I have read. Male-dominated workplace and the men are in charge. How many women are the boss in SV???? Any????
J.C. (Michigan)
@ibivi It's because women don't start these companies. Until women are willing to take the risks and accept the possible consequences of baking something from scratch, rather becoming the icing on someone else's cake, it will be this way.
Kingfish52 (Rocky Mountains)
It's refreshing to hear someone - another woman - hold Ms. Sandberg to accounts and not offer up the defense of "Men do this too, and worse!". The point is that EVERYONE, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or bank account, should be held equally accountable for the things they've done. Of course this isn't true by a long shot, but if Ms. Sandberg is being held accountable now, how often did she escape accountability on her path to the top? And wasn't that dodging taken from the same playbook Zuckerberg and other people of power and privilege use? When feminists rush to the cause of Ms. Sandberg, arguing that because Zuckerberg and other men aren't being held to the same standard, do they acknowledge that these men also didn't ride a wave of empowerment, fueled by reverse discrimination and society's desire to right wrongs of the past? The truth is that Ms. Sandberg used this wave to advance her own selfish ends, and many people - employees under her, and Americans who were gamed by the Facebook's complicity with the Russians - have paid a price far beyond what she will ever pay. These feminists who choose to make Ms. Sandberg a face for discrimination do a huge disservice to women by de-valuing the discrimination they've suffered. I applaud your honesty in calling out "the wolf in sheep's clothing" that Ms. Sandberg represents.
DKC (Florida)
Susan S does what any successful executive is expected to do, that is generating profit while protecting the rights of the company it serves... thus protecting its employees and the owners (which include many pension and retirement funds held by federal workers and the likes of teacher unions btw) against the pummeling of politicians scoring points with those that cannot accept the results of an election. The Russians and the US have been doing this "misinformation" thing to each other since the rise of the Bolsheviks. What scares me more, is this country's left trying to police private colleges, corporations and individual thought as the communists once did. The way to counter disinformation is with a flood of fact... focus on that rather then demonizing a women just doing her job at the height of her profession.
Sam (Mayne Island)
Corporations are not democracies; in fact, based on the evidence to date they would appear to be breeding grounds for tyrants. That's not to say that that is always a bad thing, especially if the Prince or Princess at the top is also a Solon. But in the case before us it is clearly time for Facebook to not only utter a broad Mea Culpa but to roll a few heads.
JL22 (Georgia)
Why is it the privileged think they are so because of personal merit and not the luck of birth? It gives them a feeling of magical powers, magical knowledge and intrinsic wisdom that they just KNOW they should share with poor people. It's when the poor succeed that something great has really happened. And let's get to the bottom line - Sandberg set those people back decades, and she did it for profit for herself and Zuckerberg.
Fred (Brooklyn)
No real surprises here, Sheryl Sandberg was mentored by Lawrence Summers. Some might call my insinuation guilt by association, but I say, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.
JS (Seattle)
I predicted that social media platforms would run into these kinds of problems- many years ago. As an old school print journalist in my former career, and even after my transition to high tech and the internet world, I had serious doubts that social media platforms would remain benign tools to broadcast cat videos and holiday dinner photos to the world. Media, before the internet, was mostly curated and edited by professionals. I always thought that giving the average person a personal publishing platform, capable of reaching millions of people, was a potential Pandora's Box of trouble. The people who built these platforms care only about features, functionality, and scale, not the actual content; they are engineers, not editors, writers and artists. Don't get me wrong, there's lots of positive attributes to social media, but the founders and builders were naive and short sighted in their drive to scale their businesses. I don't know the full answer, but FaceBook must do a much better job keeping their platforms free of nefarious content. Or at some point we will just say that's enough and abandon ship. If another platform came along that mimicked much of what FaceBook does without the suspect content, people would switch at a moment's notice.
Ambroisine (New York)
Actually, it’s the anti-feminist manifesto par excellence. But it’s a successful capital as God text. Instead of advocating for balance, satisfaction, and curiosity, Ms. Sandberg’s thesis is essentially this: be phony, be fake, be untrue to yourself and to others in order to attain power. Well... that kind of power may not be the ultimate goal! It more resembles the Stepford Wives, and is certainly is not the goal of the feminism I espouse. What seems to evade many people is this: women don’t want to be men; they just want the same opportunities.
Adam (Los Angeles)
Corporate leaders should behave responsibly and take the criticism when they fail to do so. Gender doesn't enter into it. Sandberg is just as amorally focussed as any of her male counterparts including Zuckerberg and they both need to be held accountable. We need business leaders who realize their corporations have responsibilities to the society in which they operate. Of whatever gender.
Penn (Pennsylvania)
The gossipy cavil about Ms. Sandberg's feminist feet of clay is much to some, although she never spoke to me, but I think the more valuable and alarming messages here are: "What makes Sandberg’s current behavior so unsavory is that she put corporate interests — and her own image — ahead of the needs of democracy. She would sooner downplay Facebook’s involvement in a national security crisis than compromise the integrity of her reputation." And "...The blame here ultimately lies with Mark Zuckerberg, who created this vexed, hexed platform, gleefully vowing to 'move fast and break things,' not realizing that one of those things might be democracy itself." These folks are globalists and winner-take-all capitalists. In their eye, the rule of law is something they make, not something they abide by. Caution and concern is what they inspire in me, not admiration, for either of them, and certainly not for the alternate reality they've created.
Lawrence (Ridgefield)
When someone takes great pains to try to convince the public of their outstanding morality or other noble deeds, I become very suspicious and begin probing for motives. This is a great example of why one must delve into motives behind a push of "image making" publicity.
Con (Oregon City OR)
If you really want to study a courageous woman who found herself caught in the intersection of politics and business, look to Katherine Graham of the Washington Post. She had to make tremendously risky decisions that could have cost her her family's company, wealth, and even the chance of prison. In choosing to publish information about the Vietnam war, she exposed the cynical calculations of a corrupt government, and showed true patriotism. Sheryl Sandberg is not fit to shine her shoes.
Mark B (Toronto)
Thank you! Jordan Peterson has been saying almost the exact same thing: that in order to get to the very top you usually need to demonstrate the traits that are typically (but not always) exhibited by males (but not all). In other words, you have to be mean, ruthless, cunning, and disagreeable. It's sad, but it's true. Sheryl Sandberg was all these things. The only difference is that Peterson has been vilified for years by many in the liberal media/culture for saying pretty much the same thing that this op-ed is saying -- and that many agree with. If this episode demonstrates anything, it's that Peterson's premise was right. The people at the top are usually the most disagreeable -- male or female.
ShirlWhirl (USA)
It's very easy to sit in your wealthy tower and tell other people to lean in and all that jazz. As a person who lost her spouse very suddenly in 2015, Steinberg is no more an authority on personal growth than I am. The difference between us; however, is that I no longer have someone to kick in for half the bills and face the issues that regular people face: how to manage the necessaries while trying to secure some type of future for myself. Oh, and mourn the loss of my 25 year beloved husband. I have no issue with Steinberg's work attitude of taking the bull by the horns. I take issue with her belief that everyone can do that simply if they want to because she did. It's a lot more complicated than that but it seems the more wealthy one is, the less they are able to see and accept that the path they took is simply not available to many or may be paved with impediments that they are either unable to see or refuse to see because they've never experienced them. It's easier for a wealthy person that never had to struggle for anything to write people off and tell them they are "just making excuses" when they have not lived and felt the real bumps that ordinary people face as they try to make their way. Sandberg cares about herself and herself only. Anyone who places her on some type of pedestal needs a serious reality check.
Donna (Georgia)
As a female who came to maturity in the 60s, I have come to expect corporate women to be power driven like corporate men. Sheryl Sandberg after all was a protege of Larry Summers! But I am disturbed that many women seem to think that women in politics will make a difference. Margaret Thatcher anyone? or Hillary Clinton as Senator or Secretary of State? We should hold men and women in corporations and politics as equally accountable for their exercise of power. Let's see how the new wave of Democratic women in the House perform.
MTS (Kendall Park, NJ)
“Male executives, of course, deploy such calculating tactics all the time.” The same line of thinking applies to execs at non-tech companies. It seems like most readers are (a) unaware that tech companies could have profit motives and (b) think they should be held to different standards than the companies that feed, clothe and transport you.
JFB (Alberta, Canada)
One hopes no innocent windows were shattered when the author's Macy's Parade-sized sexist balloon was burst by Ms. Sandberg. "It was possibly naïve..." is quite an understatement. It is incredibly difficult to rise to the top of a major corporation such as Facebook, and requires personality traits (e.g. an enormous ego, low empathy, exclusive focus, aggressiveness) that are unlikely to manifest themselves in pleasant ways outside of the climb to the top. This is true regardless of the gender in which these traits are housed, as the author herself points out in example. It would be helpful if we could all look at people as individuals, each possessing unique talents and flaws, rather than shoehorning each of us into one group or another to fit our own particular narrative.
DB Cooper (Portland OR)
Ms. Senior is spectacularly wrong in calling Sheryl Sandberg a "feminist icon". Ms. Sandberg was born with every advantage -- and at a time when the second wave feminists whom she derides had already put in decade after decade of effort to ensure her equal rights and opportunities, often at great cost to themselves. And Ms. Sandberg's great feminist mottos? "Lean In"? "Smile More?" Are you kidding me? These are the mottos of every older white male in this country, as a woman's "recipe for success". I was once told that I might be in line for a promotion at a law firm if I dressed "more feminine". Another time I was told by a prospective employer that I was turned down for a job because, of the last two finalists, the man "had a family to support." Well, I also had a family to support, and those were some very hard years. Does Ms. Sandberg have any earthly clue about any of this? No. And I, as a woman in my sixties, and an attorney who began practicing law when Ms. Sandberg was a young child, am offended at Ms. Sandberg's title of "feminist icon". Ms. Sandberg is nothing but a Gen X child born into very comfortable surroundings who already had every door open to her. This was certainly not the case for those of us women who are twenty, thirty or forty years her elder, and who made their way, on their own. Who had to fight their way into male dominated professions. Who had to push their way into higher management. Sheryl Sandberg a feminist icon? Get real.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
High profile company and top executive position made her the perfect image for a message about gender equality. Writers, advocates, and publicists seek out such icons their narratives and they are seldom skeptical enough to not raise up imperfect people as god like perfect ones. The mass media is saturated by messages meant to manipulate public opinions or to promote special interests. Sandberg is not an exceptional case, not in the least.
ibivi (Toronto)
@DB Cooper the feminist movement was not able to win working women to the cause. most of the feminists were college-educated middle class (or higher) women who had privileges just not available to lower class women. the tech industry is making people super rich. the divides are greater now than ever. they have power like never before. suddenly it is revealed that fb is a monster too no matter what puff pieces the press was putting out on Zuckerberg. And Sandberg is right there with him stirring the pot.
Rhiannon Hutchinson (New England)
Nothing I have ever heard from Sandberg indicates she has has wisdom, authenticity, or empathy. On the contrary, she traded those virtues for power, prestige, and vanity. She could have connected with people and cared about them while offering new ways to think, work, and be...but her world isn't big enough to hold anyone but herself. So she manipulates people instead, and we mustn't pretty that up by calling it "strategy". Her goal is simply to get what she wants...regardless of how inauthentic she has to be, how much she has to lie, what laws or moral codes she has to break, or how her personal success can hurt others. That's sad. But the real tragedy is how many people in the world can't tell the difference between a wise woman and a con artist.
RDA (Chico,CA)
Once could cogently argue that it takes a sociopath to run an enormous corporation; after all, corporations are interested only in one thing: profit margin. All other human considerations are to be addressed by the PR department. Sandberg and Zuck seem to fit the definition of non-violent sociopathy to a T.
Who bought the "Lean In" strategy to begin with? Women had been leaning in, stating our case, and doing the work all along since the 60's. Much more than leaning in, with our own blood, sweat, and tears, we had built a world where someone like Sheryl could pay for private day care and housekeepers as easily as it would be to buy a mocha latte. I'm happy for her financial success and privilege. But that she could come along and title her book with a flippant admonishment like "Lean In" was insulting. Someone who could sound as pompous as this understood little about what it is to be a woman in business. As it turns out, Facebook has been a big disappointment so far. Zuckerberg launched his tech platform by insulting women at Harvard, and he's never gotten over his immature view of the world. In the early days when the company was still floundering, it was women users who built Facebook into a gargantuan communications platform. But UltraViolet, the women's advocacy group, had to submit tens of thousands of signatures on a petition to force Facebook to put Sheryl on the board of directors. It wasn't her "leaning in" strategy that got her there. It was the massive support she received from women she'd never met. Then Zuckerberg and Sandberg hid what was going on with Russia, thinking Facebook's precious advertising revenue business model was more important than the core values of good faith and democracy. What will it take for Facebook to get it right? Too late?
DW (Philly)
@DG There is seriously literally no one with any understanding of what feminism is who ever thought Sheryl Sandberg was a feminist. No feminist bought "Lean in" as a feminist strategy. Frankly, no one with experience in corporate America bought it as a career success strategy, either. She's a corporate executive who wrote a self-promoting book to make some more money, which is pretty much what motivates corporate executives. There's no sense in feeling somehow betrayed by Sandberg as a "feminist" when she wasn't ever one to begin with.
A "true feminist," whatever that is, did not take Sandberg's book or media blitz seriously, but her admonitions confused a lot of young women who seem to know nothing about the origins or meaning of the struggle for women's rights in the 20th Century. Witness who we have as a President, voted in by people who took The Apprentice seriously. If you think a younger generation of women have not been misled or confused by the Sheryl Sandberg mystique, take a good look around. Splitting hairs over the meaning of "what feminism is" is meaningless in any case. There isn't any one right or wrong way to define feminism. Trolling and tribalism aside, we have a big problem with Facebook, and I sincerely hope they can fix what's wrong.
Bob in Boston (Massachusetts)
Democracy has always been a struggle. Always will be. I don't see how that has been changed much by Facebook. Certainly not for the better.
Mister Mxyzptlk (West Redding, CT)
Not suprized by Ms. Sandberg's actions. I've often thought that measuring the number of women leaders of corporations is an incorrect metric. The process is self selecting - only the most bottom line focused and willingness to use the most ruthless means individuals are able to get to the top. Gender is secondary - not to single out Ginni Rommetty of IBM but she has laid off more than 60,000 employees (mostly older and unable to find equivalent employment) in a so far failing attempt to turn the business around. CEO's have far more in common with one another then they have based on gender or anything else. If change is possible based on increasing the number of female leaders, it will come by increasing participation in middle management and the pool of candidates for leadership roles.
EJW (Colorado)
As a country, we need to move away from unfettered Capitalism. Companies need to stop putting short term profits ahead of everything a company does. It is not good for the company at the end of the day nor the people that work for them. We have to change the business model. Companies need an egalitarian view of their business. These obscene salaries for CEOs and executives is not capitalism but greed. Our country and democracy should always be first. That should be our motto for the U.S.
The Tragedy of Commons writ large. What's good for me and mine might end up being bad for everyone else.
caplane (Bethesda, MD)
Larry Summers, who mentored Sheryl Sandberg, once explained to Elizabeth that she had a choice: "I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders."
shiningstars122 (CT)
Regardless if it is running corporations or working in the halls of Congress the real challenge for women who aspire to become leaders is two things. First, are they going to become complacent actors in the continuing onslaught of patriarchy and free market capitalism. The second is, if they choose to to the latter then what is their actual vision for a peaceful, equable and prosperous future for all humankind? Sadly for Ms. Sandberg and many or her peers, they have not yet figured that out and in Ms. Sandberg's case; as I am sure with too many others, she risks being pushed out of the process entirely if she does not "lean in" and play by the rules institutionalized by the "big boys". Clearly from the NY Times reporting she has done just that...and with a vengeance.
poins (boston)
wait a minute, "male executives deploy such calculating tactics all of the time?" what planet do you live on? she's a terrible person and so are any men or women who behave this way. this trope that women are somehow morally superior to men is ridiculous but politically correct. perhaps you should consider writing about the opposite formulation and see how that comes across. I'm a liberal Democrat but tire of the insidious injection of these bogus, self-congratulatory views into so many of your stories..
Mark Gardiner (KC MO)
From this story: "One of the most revealing stories in “Lean In” is about her senior year, when she was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Believing that the title would interfere with her chances of getting a date to the biggest party of the year — “Who wants to go to the prom with the smartest girl in the class?”— she got a friend on the yearbook to remove the designation." That single sentence that says everything about Sandberg: The one where she conflates "Most Likely to Succeed" with "smartest".
Drs. Mandrill, Koko, and Peos Balanitis with Srs. Lele, Mkoo, Wewe and Basha Kutomba (Southern Hemisphere.)
Wesadlynote: People are too often corrupted when they gain money and "power" over other people. It seems that everything becomes maleable, saleable ... everything. Why expect her to be different just because she authored a "self help", feigns moral and ethical piousness, and soared to heights of corporate power unthinkable for most people - especially women. It appears that few are able to contain themselves once they achieve a certain level of wealth, fame, and "power". She and M.Z. and the "prez." are not any better than each other ... We, as a cohesive group, proclaim that we have not succumbed to such corruption ...
DeVaughn (Silicon Valley)
It's a bunch of gauzy, soft-focus naivete to assume that this woman was anything less than an ice-water-in-her-veins operator long before she drew the attention of Zuckerberg. She made her bone in Washington D.C. What does that tell you? She's a player, plain and simple. The takeaway: It's past time we see "gender" as the social construct it is. Ruthlessness has no gender. It's sexless in more ways than one.
Zareen (Earth)
Sheryl Sandberg is Tracy Enid Flick (from Election).
Curiouser (California)
Didn't anyone notice Ms. Sandberg's youthful excursion into politics as a member of the Clinton administration? It told us a lot about her complexities and dichotomies. It is a jungle out there folks.
Bob (Boston)
Facebook like Google took the evil route when they went to the ad supported model. The internet advertising business is based on giving people free stuff to capture them and then selling them to others. If Facebook and Google truly wanted to make the world a better place they would go community supported like Wikipedia. Until then Mark and Sheryl should stop pretending their company is anything but what it is: just another scummy online ad business.
Mike (Morgan Hill CA)
Her next book should be titled: Hubris and Greed.
Mark Gardiner (KC MO)
The real Sandberg was apparent the moment that she used her clout to ensure that 'Lean In's ghostwriter Nell Scovell – the woman who actually wrote the text – didn't get the customary 'with' credit.
Sua Sponte (Raleigh, NC)
Why hasn't she been fired?
Kathi Russell (North Carolina)
Sheryl Sandburg was never a feminist icon. Believing she stood for anything but herself was your first mistake.
John D (San Diego)
This has precious little to do with the pedestal and everything to do with the naïveté of people like Ms. Senior. Women in positions of power act like men? Stop the presses! Next thing you know, Jennifer will discover that the sun rises in the East.
Jojojo (Richmond, va)
Gee, women in power can be just as corrupt and immoral and sleazy as men in power. What a shock!
magicisnotreal (earth)
The apology? Probably what W would call strategery. Do you think any of the tech companies have the personal data on Zuckerberg or Sandberg or any of the tech high and mighty like they do on the rest of us? "Republicans, and President Trump in particular, remain convinced that Facebook quashes conservative content." Regardless of whether or not that is true "conservative" content should be quashed everywhere and always because it is nothing but lies. Even the name conservative is a lie, the dogma attached to it is in fact radical extremism in favor of autocracy by use of theocracy and propaganda.
magicisnotreal (earth)
"Republicans, and President Trump in particular, remain convinced that Facebook quashes conservative content." Regardless of whether or not that is true "conservative" content should be quashed everywhere and always because it is nothing but lies. Even the name conservative is a lie, the dogma attached to it is in fact radical extremism in favor of autocracy by use of theocracy and propaganda. The apology? Probably more of what W would call strategery. BTW I saw something about this on reddit, do you think any of the tech companies have the personal data on Zuck or Sandberg or any of the tech high and mighty like they do on the rest of us? Interesting idea no?
Paul (CA)
This coverage of FB will be sadly incomplete until you - a) tell us who is on their board of directors what they think and what they plan to do, b) what other companies and organizations the board is involved with and c) who the top 15 investors are in FB. The BOD should be happy to talk with you and in turn we will have a full understanding of how FB is managed and governed. Finally the top 15 investors are the only with a voice to force change in the business model. Come on NYT, help us grow up and try to do better.
ecobox (Chicago)
"This is a woman who thought strategically about prom." News flash: people think strategically all the time, especially in high school. It's not gender-related, no matter how much it fits the narrative you're following.
L (St. Louis)
Sandberg is a feminist because she tells us she is a feminist. She is a master of self-branding and telling the rest of us how to succeed on her terms, not ours. Her Lean In Circles are something she created to support her own narrative and do not welcome differing or diverging thought. It’s hard to see beyond the smoke and mirrors she presents—yet this opinion piece manages to do it.
Jean Campbell (Tucson, AZ)
This is another story about a betrayal by Facebook, a company who we thought could be better, could lead, could display morality and could somehow counterbalance Trump's pillaging and plundering. Power still corrupts, and people who corruptible are usually the ones seeking power. The story is the same at Amazon - a company that exploits consumer greed and worker desperation for a decent paying job with benefits - whereas Facebook exploits its "friends" in the age of loneliness. The problem is we've allowed corporations the balance of power, and the workers (that's us) are getting the short end of the stick. As for the planet, it seems Jeff Bezos will sell everything he can find and more to line his pockets - so what if we are creating larger and larger landfills? But we didn't elect them and it's the failure of our government to regulate corporations that is causing this mess. Sandberg is the same type, in it for power and money but in a way, maybe worse because she pretends there is some principle behind her ambition other than ego. If you believe these companies are doing no good, stop using their services. It's inconvenient, but its possible.
Cap’n Dan Mathews (Northern California)
Women have a ways to go before being equals in public life, including business, but despite earning points for making it, Sandberg shows she can be as obtuse, conniving, and frankly dangerous as anyone, which in a sense confirms that females shouldn’t be excluded from the club.
Andrew (Boston)
Sandberg cannot escape some stubborn facts, even with her unlimited budget to mount campaigns to distract from them. FB failed in its failure to identify Russian influence of our electoral process and its system permits violent and destructive actions by some of its users. FB failed to protect the confidentiality of its users. FB's very existence depends upon the addiction of its uses to the ability to connect with others (for free) without disclosing how it will use their information to monetize those connections and user information. Zuckerberg's most recently displayed his arrogance in refusing to participate in hearings about international government oversight, but whose ethical boundaries have been on display since he formed the company with ideas from uncompensated individuals. FB is the quintessential, cynical tech model that, if it had to comply with the conventional regulations for other industries, would not exist. Of course, Sandberg and Zuckerberg could care less since they have billions to lean back on. If that assertion is not instantly clear, recall his stilted testimony to ridiculously deferential congressional interviewers last spring. While his answers were perhaps not all contemptuous, he said very little that was instructive.
Carolyn C (San Diego)
She should be fired for despicable actions that have devalued and embarrassed her company and that no one with any sense of balance or judgment would have undertaken. Corporate lying always undermines the stock value and the company when it’s found out. That she is still employed shows that the Facebook Board needs to take action now and consider if it’s time for Zuckerberg to move on as well.
Barking Doggerel (America)
Anyone who pays attention to trite, meaningless pap like "lean in" is no icon, feminist or otherwise. Our culture is saturated with business slogans, "management by objective" nonsense, "strategic" thinking and the use of words like "innovation" and "entrepreneurship" to describe the most mundane manifestations of conformity. In both education and business, one the newest crazes is "design thinking," which is the PowerPoint codifying of simplistic common sense. I know. I've watched the empty suits who capitalize on these fads and add nothing of use to the world. Sandberg and "leaning in" are situated right in the center of this dumbing down circus.
Jack from Saint Loo (Upstate NY)
Facebook is the new MySpace. It will be about as relevant as MySpace is several years.
Amelia (Northern California)
A whole lot of us never bought Sheryl Sandberg's act, because we can recognize PR for what it is. The bigger picture, of course, is that while she was pulling the wool over the New York Times' eyes, she was also helping steer Facebook into corrupting the 2016 US election--and a whole lot of previous elections around the globe. She needs to go. So does Zuckerberg. Facebook clearly requires a major amount of regulatory oversight, because these two cannot be trusted.
DW (Philly)
@Amelia We are all getting tired of them personally as well. One sense they are both under an awful strain, trying to be "personalities" as well as corporate executives, and maintain a social-do-gooder / young genius image when they are just, you know, corporate executives. Zuckerberg especially, has he not had his 13 years of boy-wonder fame now, he can take his billions and just go away now.
greenjeans (California)
When confronted with the most significant moral choice of her life, Sandberg chose profit and self-protection.
Dave (Philadelphia)
This discussion of Sheryl Sandberg reflects both a simplistic and an absurdly politicized mindset. Everyone is complex and Sandberg is bound not to be different. To portray her as an icon worthy of emulation, or, worse, deification, is the height of foolishness. It may be understandable that someone with some similarity to us, who seems (SEEMS) to epitomize characteristics we'd like to have ourselves is held up as an object of admiration and someone who we would aspire to be. It may be understandable, but it's ridiculously naive and destructive. Naive because it allows us to abstract qualities we admire and pretend that the person is actually only those qualities. Destructive because it is a trap: no one is simple and to fall prey to someone's PR is to risk disillusionment in the end. The author of this column clearly has made both errors: she seems to have wanted someone to embody those qualities that she wanted to have. That made those qualities attainable. And she seems to have believed that the person in question was only those things she wanted her to be. Wishful thinking is not reality. Idols have clay feet. It may be harder to accept that people are neither all we want them to be, nor all we detest, but it is realistic.
RAH (Pocomoke City, MD)
Ha ha ha. Sorry, someone who has somehow made billions of $s (including Zuckerberg and Buffett) is someone who is willing and able to exploit others and push others off the ladder to success. You don't get there being a kind or nice person. The facade you show people may look like that, but that is not how you are. Ambition mixed with a little insecurity will make you make choices that are, somehow, always in your favor either monetarily or ego wise.
David (NYC)
I don't think there are too many people begrudging her success. It's the idea that she preaches one thing to close to 4 million readers and then does the opposite. To me this is not about gender but once again a person with great wealth who has lost the moral compass. On second thought, based on her goals for the prom perhaps she never learned to read a compass. Hmm, who do we blame for that?
Thatcher Ulrich (New York NY)
Sandberg's behavior here is entirely unsurprising based on what is already on the public record. She's not an ogre, just a smart, pathologically ambitious person with a sympathetic exterior.
Anna Kavan (Colorado)
"What makes Sandberg’s current behavior so unsavory is that she put corporate interests — and her own image — ahead of the needs of democracy." I see our current President the same way. Frightening.
Midwest Josh (Four Days From Saginaw)
“Male executives, of course, deploy such calculating tactics all the time.” Yeah, it’s called running a business. Feel good stories run charities. The corporate world is entirely different, and requires a different skill set. You seem shocked that a woman is capable of making high level decisions.
mary bardmess (camas wa)
If Sandberg is one of the most influential feminists then we have certainly gone off the rails. Women don't need any more self-help and advice books. That racket apparently is still flourishing if a book called "Lean In" can become a best seller. We need a congress to pass and enforce civil-rights laws and lawyers.
Katalina (Austin, TX)
Most interesting and perhaps for the most obvious reason just writ by the next two readers: women are human. I think more duality expected of women as they rise now to heights not reached in such numbers now, particularly in business and political realms. OK, so you had your George Eliots...oh tht's right, she used a man's name. Madame Curie? Woman. But to see the results of more women in the new areas where they are now visible and will be able to use their power, will they use it to better all things societal from equal pay to education to health-care, or simply become like their fellow humans, those guys who yell and scream, run organizations top down like the military, resemble Trump and his minions? As Anderson from MA writes, "she and others in social media and media in general are responsible for the election of Donald Trump." That's a hard one to swallow and it means women, you will have to do more. Men, join in. All must move for more than just the bottom line, in accounting and ogling at it. Not a paradox, just the current MO.
Gerry (St. Petersburg Florida)
I give her no more credibility than Ivanka Trump. She has a lot more ability, but no more credibility.
DW (Philly)
@Gerry I don't know, let's not go crazy here. Sheryl Sandberg HAS done some work in her day - unlike Ivanka (whose computer The Onion has just revealed is just a cardboard box with a mirror inside). Sandberg did compete and succeed in tech so she did have to prove herself on some level. Not the same as being born rich and allowed to play in the fashion business.
LeanOut (CA)
Google, fb and any other tech giant that comes along with the power to cause genocide will need to be stripped and regulated. You cannot produce products that have the ability to take life without significant oversight.
mlbex (California)
Is it a surprise that the E-suite comes with a set of rules and requirements that you must follow no matter what your gender? There are things you must do, and opinions you must hold and share, and if you fail to do either, you hit the ceiling. Welcome to the real world.
myasara (Brooklyn, NY)
At last, in the second to last paragraph, you lay blame where it should be laid: at the feet of Mark Zuckerberg. Throughout all of the hand-wringing I have been asking myself: And what about Zuck? How (or rather why) has he come away unscathed? Is it just easier to blame women?
Michael Gilbert (Charleston )
She just needs to go. She is NOT a role model for anyone, unless of course they work for the current President.
Mindy White (Costa Rica)
It seems Facebook, like major banks, is too big to fail. And yet it's the users who've decided that rather than the government. Facebook users are bought and sold- they are the product- and it seems they can't get enough of being corporate fodder. I mean, friends! Baby photos! E-vites! All that fear of missing out! The premise was vile to begin with. Add a hefty dose of Russian election interference and discover that the corporate officers aided and abetted it and you have something rotten to its very core.
del (new york)
I'm glad that the press is waking up to the fact that Sandberg is simply just another cold-hearted, hard-charging tech exec. I'm not saying that to condemn her or single her out. Those are the very traits that helped Silicon Valley become the world's Wonder Wealth Machine. But the industry's success came in no small part because people truly wanted to change the world. Yeah, part of the story came down to different morality, different ethics. Unfortunately, the top management at Facebook is out of control. Their greed has trumped their good judgment. Like so many sports idols, Sandberg has begun to believe her own news clippings and the result is her arrogant presumption that she - and Facebook - can do no wrong. That ultimately contributed to a series of astoundingly stupid decisions - the cherry on top being the move to hire a PR hit man to go after Soros. Perhaps this can be fixed. But whatever happens, Sandberg's legacy will be forever stained by her incompetence in the face of Kremlin interference and the role Facebook played in helping get Donald Trump elected in 2016. Instead of desperately "leaning in" all the time, Sandberg might want to lean back for a bit an reflect on her shortcomings and how to repair the terrible damage she's done.
Ace J (Portland)
How many people gushed about and insisted I read “Lean in?” (I was her target demographic, a young professional mom). It failed to acknowledge the dominant fact of my existence: I was exhausted! Who was this woman kidding? My copy could have been called “What’s Wrong With You? Don’t You Want This?” As the story unfolds, and as I get older (possibly wiser) I’m starting to see why, maybe, I don’t. I was exhausted from what we used to joke was “leaning out:” hanging out with babies and toddlers. Walking the dog. Cooking meals and cleaning up after. It turns out: that’s real life.
Koala (A Tree)
I always thought Sandberg was a con. Her only real accomplishment has been to have been hired by men who did things.
It’s News Here (Kansas)
The rise and fall of Sandberg’s image reminds me a lot of Carly Fiorina’s time at HP. Fiorina did a great job of cultivation her image. She was the lead in what seems like all of HP’s advertising at the time. Sandberg has done a similar thing — using her Facebook fame as a platform to promote herself outside of her traditional circles. She has curated her brand exceedingly well. And I think it is fair to say that Sandberg is a better manager than Fiorina, but her fall from grace is well deserved. She made business decisions that were focused on the health of the company AND her image at the expense of everything else including the well being of the country. Many a business leader would sleep well having made that trade off. I’m sure Sandberg did. But ultimately the choices she made have been exposed to the light of day, and they are damning. Short of curing cancer and single handedly eliminating hunger from the planet, Sandberg’s reputation will never recover — though, like Fiorina, she’ll never give up trying to spin her image to the public.
Duane Coyle (Wichita)
Whenever the consumer receives a service for which the consumer is not charged outright know that someone is paying for that service. Nothing—nothing—is free. If the consumer doesn’t pay a monthly subscription for a private e-mail server and instead uses free Google e-mail, know that Google is sifting through your e-mail to collect data on you to be sold to a company that wants to sell you something and better figure out how to sell you something. Free news from a cable TV channel is financed by advertisements. And advertisers are paying for eyes. The competition for eyes is fiercer now than ever before, as the eyes have so many options to be entertained and informed—with diminishing public interest in being informed (very few read newspapers now). So the news channel’s executive producers must tailor its news content for its particular audience to carve out its claim to a chunk of the eyes. I don’t and have never subscribed to services such as FB, however I know many who do and none have said they are quitting FB over the so-called Russian news scandal. The photos of a subscriber’s grandchild dressed up as a turkey for Thanksgiving are just too important, along with knowing that most members of their family are looking at the same photos. Plus, “sharing” photos of their new deck, new kitchen, new designer puppy, results of their latest plastic surgery, most recent European vacation, etc., seems important to FB subscribers. FB is apparently works like an opioid.
Neil Snyder (CA)
Having spent a quarter decade as an executive in the tech industry I have had contact with many talented women on the rise. All of them exhibit the exact same characteristic that drives men in similar positions: an obsessive focus on getting to the top. They are as (use bad words here) and as (use good words here) as any man. That we find Sandberg with the same flaws as anyone else regardless of how much time she preens her reputation is not surprising. I have yet to find a company not focused on revenue and profit growth above all else. That Facebook was not keenly aware of the social and moral issues well in advance of publicity is ludicrous. If we could scour Facebook's data analytics I am sure we would find clear evidence of this.
Observer (Pa)
Only someone who has never been responsible for anything of significance could write this piece. More than ever, we need more individuals like Sandberg. We don't have enough strategic thinkers. Increasingly, Americans think in linear, parochial and tactical one-dimensional ways. How else can we explain the current WH incumbent and so many voter's choices? Anyone who has operated in a complex organization knows that, like in all biological systems, politics are a reality to be navigated with care if one wants to be effective. There is little evidence that she knowingly "compromised democracy" for self-gain and protection of the enterprise. The Facebook issue, it's potential for good and bad, may be obvious now but social media platforms are new and we all learn as we go. What there is plenty of evidence for is that Sandberg is smart, can prioritize and focus, make good choices and succeed on merit. Consequently, she has already accomplished more than the vast majority of us could dream of, including reaching the pinnacle of success in everything she applied herself to. We need more Sandbergs, not fewer. And last but not least, don't judge until you have walked in her shoes. Oh, and, unlike so many others, she has so much more than her shoe collection to be proud of.
Another Wise Latina (USA)
@Observer Wow, you sound angry, as any loyal friend would, but we are not discussing her as a friend but as an extremely influential person who hid morally corrupt doings of her company. They were profitable, but at what cost? Democracy, maybe. Her conduct is indefensible even if she the swellest pal anyone could ask for.
Observer (Pa)
@Another Wise Latina I don’t know her but certainly admire her path from a Florida public school to Harvard,The White House and finally Silicon Valley.She succeeded on her merits,not as a legacy or someone from a wealthy home.We need more people like her and fewer adult children focused on trivia and instant gratification.She certainly made mistakes at Facebook but not for the usual reason,greed,given how wealthy she already was on leaving Google. She and others were slow to grasp issues.The rest of us are wise after the fact.
ibivi (Toronto)
I worked in a female-dominated workplace. My managers were female, the CEO and president were female. I was not a management person and was often critical of their lack of knowledge and poor decision making. For that, I was spied upon and was treated poorly. I never believed that women couldn't be as bad as male managers. There was no gender solidarity.
Billfer (Lafayette LA)
Having held positions directly reporting to both male and female CEOs through much of my career, Sheryl Sandberg is no different than any I encountered. An almost clinically significant sociopathy is the most common trait in successful corporate leadership. The women I encountered were generally politer when figuratively defenestrating subordinates; the men were generally blunter. There was no difference in the outcome.
magicisnotreal (earth)
@Billfer Define "successful corporate leadership". You will find if you are old enough to remember or look into it that the concept and idea of maximizing profit was invented and imposed by law by "conservatives" and happily adopted as morally right because it was law by sociopaths high and low in the 80's. I am sure adults today were raised to never know that. That definition of success is at odds with the prior moral basis of our government and society. To hide the immorality of what they were doing the conservative wrapped themselves in religion and accused everyone who tried to stop them imposing amoral government upon us of being immoral.
Billfer (Lafayette LA)
@magicisnotreal Yes, I am old enough to remember more ethical definitions and practices in corporate leadership; I retired last year. Your point is well taken; "successful" corporate leadership has assumed a dramatically different meaning in the last 4-5 decades. A friend jokingly suggested Michael Douglas's character in "Greed" paved the road to... well, you know where I'm going with that...
Billfer (Lafayette LA)
@Billfer Sorry - "Wall Street" - The quote was,"Greed is good."
Janet (Sacramento, California)
As long as we mythologize business leaders like Sheryl Sandberg as feminist icons, even with the ironic edge of this opinion writer, we will wake up disappointed. Many of us who embraced feminism in the 1970s and '80s believed the best of feminist leaders were those who intended it to lift women as a class, not the few who used it as a career ladder for already prominent and prosperous women. Sandberg may be good at marketing herself, but it appears that is the extent of her vision and effort.
Jiminy (Ukraine)
I agree with the comment, "I don't know if there's a real world in which Sheryl Sandberg is a feminist icon". She rang hollow from the beginning.
Len (New York City)
“‘Lean In’ offered practical advice and research and data that young women wanted to get ahead. But it had lots of limitations.” The most glaring limitation is the notion of “getting ahead”. Male or female, if one’s purpose is to get ahead, then one has sold one’s soul. This is the limitation of all books like Sandberg’s of which there are many lining the booksellers shelves at the major airports. Measuring self worth on the basis of position in the corporate pecking order or pricing oneself will eventually lead to existential crisis. Take it from someone who has been there.
Jocelyn (Vista, CA)
I am curious as to why anyone would think Sandberg is a feminist? Becoming a corporate (or any other kind) of leader as a woman does not inherently mean that woman is a feminist (Sarah Palin is a case in point). Offering (in this case, largely unrealistic) advice on how to get ahead as a woman is not necessarily feminist - especially if that advice (like Sandberg’s) involves negotiating an inherently unequal and misogynistic system, rather than working to dismantle it. Sandberg is not a feminist. This is not to say that it isn’t possible to be a powerful leader while working towards feminist goals, as President Obama, for example, did. Insofar as she holds herself up as a feminist icon, then she has failed; but I don’t think she is, and so wouldn’t judge her on those grounds. Instead, I would say that insofar as she holds herself up as a corporate executive to admire, she has failed - and that’s not because of her sex or gender, but because she was more worried about Facebook’s bottom line than the implications of its business model for the integrity of elections. In that sense, she is no better or worse than male executives who make the same decisions every day.
Jojojo (Richmond, va)
@Jocelyn " In that sense, she is no better or worse than male executives who make the same decisions every day. " But we wouldn't be so eager to let a man off the hook for doing what she did in regard to the nefarious cover-up about election influence.
Anne Hajduk (Fairfax Va)
A feminist icon would've written a book titled along the lines of "Pull Up", not Lean In.
marchfor sanity (Toledo, Ohio)
Thank you for this column. Since Lean In, I've questioned this person's belief system, as her words to women were crass and did not allow for other choices. Sandberg and Zuckerberg have both shown in one way they're not that different from Trump i.e. they are somehow about the law and must protect their image and wealth at any cost.
a reader (Huntsvlle al)
It is very clear that the top executives at Facebook put money and growth ahead of everything else. In their minds they are just doing their job so that they never see the problem for other people. This thought of "I was just doing my job" is not limited to successful companies like Facebook. It happens to all of us. The real test of a human is what happens after it has been exposed. Is there some promise to do better in the future, is there just a cover up or is there an awaking that I am not alone in this world and I do have an affect on others. My gut feeling after seeing the top executives at Facebook is nothing will really change now, but 20 years from now these folks will set up big foundations to "help others".
child of babe (st pete, fl)
It seems that much of career advice and advice in general is centered on doing more, being more, acting more like X, earning more, striving for ...more. And, of course, it follows:money. Even a book written decades ago, "Do What You Love" had the tag line, "the money will follow." It is never enough. When are we encouraged - as a society - to be who we are? To enjoy what we have? To reflect on our values? To (just) be good to ourselves and one another? What we have is never enough. This is most especially true it seems among the highly educated and wealthier-to-begin-with population. ut it has been thrust on everyone else with assumptions that everyone wants and needs to "get ahead." People make a lot of money peddling that notion. Is it possible that those who never were told they should expect more are actually happier, live more fulfilling lives? Think about why it might makes sense to consider raising minimum wages, raising the standard of living for all, and applying some of the "social democracy" principles that have helped people in other countries be happy with being ((just)a teacher, (just) playing music in a local ensemble, (just) a care-giver, (just) a clerk; (just) a cook or (just) a mechanic or programmer. We have allowed unmitigated "capitalism" and "exceptionalism" and "greed" to replace what we used to be known for: "ingenuity" and "generosity" (of spirit as well as money). It's happening at the macro level and the individual level.
Nemoknada (Princeton, NJ)
Egalitarian feminism demands ethical androgyny. How could it be otherwise ? We live in a competitive world, and male executives behave as they do because they are executives, not because they are male. Males don't specialize in "bad" behavior; they specialize in not being ashamed of it when it's necessary. The kindler, gentler executive of academic feminists (who, not coincidentally, have never met a payroll) is a fantasy. That executive would not be competitive. From outside the world of feminist self-delusion, all of the self-help books by women like Ms. Sandberg give the same excellent advice: be a mensch, with all that that entails.
Cathy (Hopewell junction ny)
Sandberg is a powerful executive in powerful company charged with promoting the interests of the shareholders and management of that company. An executive is an executive, regardless of gender, and Sandberg is an effective executive. That isn't going to make her likely to play nice under adversity, even if morally the company is in the wrong. In America, the executive's job is to boost shareholder value by every means. And that is why, when Sandberg wrote "Lean In" I disregarded the book as a self-promoting fairy tale, which stresses self help over advantages. That type of writing always underplays the role of luck, timing and advantage. By all means work hard and lean-in, but don't expect to become Sandberg. And don't expect Sandberg to be the reality of the image she has created. Sandberg's reality is that she is charged with protecting the asset value of huge company and that isn't going to mean that she plays nice. Being a woman doesn't make her any less of a typical American COO.
BigG (Smryna )
Ms. Sandberg runs a publicly traded company. The product Facebook sells is data about it’s customers. That fact alone is questionable at best. Whatever else she does her primary responsibility is to her shareholders. Dress it up how you will but that is the gritty reality. This means that Wall Street and quarter to quarter expectations must be central to Ms. Sandberg’s life. Otherwise you and I would feel shortchanged if we were FB shareholders. At Google and Facebook she has basically experienced nothing but applause and admiration. Welcome to the real world of senior management. Sometimes being the smartest person at the prom is not enough.
P2 (NE)
Sherly Sandberg is another cheater when god is not watching and preacher when god is watching.. Classic leaders of Trumps class. They belong in money gutter not on icon list.
Greg Gerner (Wake Forest, NC)
More Jennifer Senior. Less Sheryl Sandberg.
TJ (Virginia)
I don't think it's fair to pick on a woman for being deceitful and hyper-political, constantly spinning the world's responses to her own mistakes and lies as egregious misogyny. This is the New York Times. Next you'll be criticizing Hillary Clinton or (gasp) advocating a fair primary season that might select a man (oh.. it *could* happen) as the party's nominee in 2020. Editor: isn't this some sort if hate speech?
Mark (Rocky River, Ohio)
If you ever bought into any of Sandberg's phony use of any sense of community, you are horribly naive. I will bet that Sheryl has been the same person since first grade. All about what is good for Sheryl. The perfect match for Zuckerberg.
Opinioned! (NYC)
If, as the article says, Sandberg has been concerned about her image as early during her high school years, she is more of a sociopath than a feminist. I’ve read the comments in the earlier NYT article about her efforts to cover up the Russian interference and commenters who used to work under her say two things: 1-she’s against the “Me Too” movement 2-she will flirt with anyone, married or not, to push her agenda. Sandberg is your typical Republican.
VJR (North America)
Seriously, what did you women expect? She IS the perfect feminist icon - behaving just as badly as men. She is the incarnate lesson of Naomi Alderman's "The Power".
Sipa111 (Seattle)
There can never be true equality until we accept that women can abuse power, be corrupt or act on the same cruel ways that men do. Gina Haspel, head of the CIA, instituted water boarding and other torture techniques after 9/11. Kristjen Neilson, head of homeland security, executed on the policy to separate parents from infants at the Mexican boarder and then obstructed all attempts to reunite these families. They acted exactly as most Men in their positions would have done. Why would Sandburg be any different?
Charles (New Jersey )
Could you please provide evidence for the statement regarding the circulation of anti-Semitic memes? Thank you.
In deed (Lower 48)
“Male executives, of course, deploy such calculating tactics all the time.“ Huh? Can’t help yourself can you.
Zareen (Earth)
Once again women are their own worst enemy. In other words, Ms. Sandberg sure didn’t help the cause. And of course neither did Hillary. :/
Andy (VA)
Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make famous. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:2 King James Version
MJS (Atlanta)
I am a women engineer MS 83 who has worked my butt off to get ahead. Women are my biggest disappointments! I am nice and feel you get more with sugar. But most women don’t know anything about teamwork and mentoring. They are stuck in middle school mean girl days. That describes Cheryl sandersberg. Otherwise we would be at 50/50
JamesHK (philadelphia)
I mean if nothing else Sheryl Sandberg has how that women are in fact up to the challenge of being up to if not more competent then their male counterparts. Its not easy challenge to be as duplicitous, morally bankrupt and just generally repulsive as Zuckerberg but Ms. Sandeberg seems to have matched him beat for beat
Scott Franklin (Arizona State University)
Facebook: passing fancy.
RJR (Alexandria, VA)
“Move fast and break things.” “Relentlessly pleasant.” “Lean in.” Ms. Sandberg’s MO was there all along, we just didn’t look deep enough.
DW (Philly)
I have NO idea why anyone ever thought Sheryl Sandberg was a feminist.
Phil (Melbourne)
Wonder how many opinion pieces NYT will run on this, referring back to its own specious "journalism" on this topic? Sheryl (and Mark) have been forthright in acknowledging that Facebook was late to comprehend meddling on its platforms. There was no proof in the article that Sandberg or any other FB leader tried to subvert the news, nor that it went after Soros specifically. As for Sheryl as a leader, she built two of the most dynamic and important commercial models that exist today - Google & Facebook. The combined productivity and opportunity these two companies have provided to millions of small businesses, not for profits and communities is far beyond what Apple, Amazon or other tech firms have delivered to market. Stamos had an axe to grind and NYT needed a story. On what meat do you feed?
Chaks (Fl)
Being a careerist with a good PR is not itself a crime in America. Pretending to be a feminist to advance her career is nothing new. She reminds me of the Theranos CEO who was supposed to be the female version of Steve Jobs to the point that she would always wear black turtleneck shirts. We all found out later that she was just a fraud. I'm not Jewish, but I have Jewish friend and I know how bad anti-antisemitism is. For Ms. Sandberg a Jewish Woman to oversee a campaign that fomented anti-antisemitism against Mr Soros to polish her image and that of Facebook is for me inexcusable. How greedy and amoral could one be to go that low?
Brian Mc (Boston)
Golly, maybe she’s just a businesswoman. Relax.
censored (Boston)
Eh, some of us never bought her self-serving PR to begin with.
W Jones (Florida)
All you have to ask is...would this have been written about a man?
jim (Lake Tomahawk)
Feminist icon? All I see is a liar that will say anything for her own self interest.
Dan Lake (New Hampshire)
With smiles, apologies, and approbrium, Sandburg and Zuckerberg have flipped the bird to America.
Rabble (VirginIslands)
She put corporate interests ahead of the needs of democracy...? Oh please. Just what imaginary world of altruism does this writer believe makes up corporate America? or small town America or corn-belt/rust-belt/bible-belt America? What hooey.
CTCajun (Milford, CT)
Who designated Sandberg a “feminist icon”? No feminist I know.
da veteran (jersey shore)
Choose whatever point you want to equivicate, prevaricate, obfuscate, or conflate on, Sandberg and the entire leadership of the whole F-book organization, each and every one, are spineless mug ugly poster children for NOT taking responsibility for their massive foul ups. We are watching childish impulse manipulation writ large, vaccinated with all the spare nanograms of morality wealthy capitalist boardrooms can muster up between Davos, Wall Street, Riyadh, and San Jose. You know, flawed leadership is flawed leadership is flawed leadership; surprise! All this article proves is psychopaths and sociopaths do astonishingly well in high school and corporate board rooms and hearings and depositions; it's a good thing they are truly surplus. Promote them up to several boards, I say, where they can't physically put their sticky maladjusted mitts on anything truly important and can all sit and stare at each other. I'm looking forward to the day F-book tanks along with Sandberg's precious to hersef only career. It's going to be beautiful watching the highly predictable infectious ugliness overwhelm the nanogram injections of morality, even if it's mainlined in. So strap off, slap a vein up, and surrender to the sickness, the micro-nano-picograms of dribbled in morality are only gonna teach Sheryls of the world how to infect more insidiously, like this article does.
Martin Daly (San Diego, California)
"Yes, but."
db (KY.)
I didn't want to hear about her grief a long time ago and don't care now either. Count your blessings lady we've ALL had losses. You think you went through a hard time? VN wasn't a walk in the park and what our vets and military folks go through makes your self pity pathetic.
Sedat Nemli (Istanbul, Turkey)
In view of the Facebook mess, maybe Sandberg's next title should read " Cleanin' ".
Make America Sane (NYC)
Thinks strategically.... All interesting... but the new bi question in an era when AI does things much better than Joan Public... is what is the new economy... ? and how should we pay people?? when we don't have enough jobs for people to do apparently. Things change. Maid's room in two bedroom NYC apts. from the time when there was a maid or a maiden aunt -- now everyone is expected to have his own dwelling... and the vacuum is automatic... AI again... Food is order din... Interesting no need for a cook or to cook.. POINT IS... a brave new world... and FB is an amusement... IMO NOT a need... a want. What about the needs... and how can women execs help meet those.
Jacob Dinneen (Eastern Ukraine)
This just in: women are human.
sdavidc9 (Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut)
@Jacob Dinneen Women are human, and high-ranking corporate figures arent. Sometimes, one of the sources of their power is an ability to project a human image, an image of someone who would never do the sorts of things that led to the success they achieve. Such projection is not inevitable; there are other strategies, but this one works and is widely adopted. To sum it up: Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.
D Clark (USA)
@sdavidc9 To the contrary. High-ranking executives are very human. Humans are just very bad at obtaining and using power morally.
Stourley Kracklite (White Plains, NY)
@Jacob Dinneen So their thirty-seven year old memories may be unreliable?
Bob Bruce Anderson (MA)
I don't care what sex Sandberg is. I don't care that her little inspirational messages are now hollowed out by revelations of temper tantrums and bullying. So what. She is human. And she is richer than rich. She made her money while the company under her direct watch was hijacked by foreign nationals - with the expressed objective of influencing the election process in our country. She and others in social media and media in general are responsible for the election of Donald Trump. And that means they are indirectly responsible for hastening the destruction of our planet - complicit in future deaths of millions of people and the premature extinctions of many species. You can say that all that was going to happen anyway, and she probably donated to Earth friendly causes. But she and Zuckerberg are complicit in the election of an insane planet destroyer. Sheryl and Mark: resign now and let some adults take over. The growth of Facebook - an advertising vehicle - was more important to you than the Earth itself. Resign in utter shame. Go write some more oblivious books.
The Owl (New England)
@Bob Bruce Anderson... Please show us verifiable evidence that the Russians actually succeeded in tipping the election to Trump. You on the left seem to cede a great deal of power to platforms like Facebook, and, yes Fox News, through speculation and invention. It would seem that you always have to have a villain to blame for your own inabilities to carry the day come election time. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of instances in the 2016 campaign where Hillary Clinton could have sealed a win. There were dozens of times when Trump stumbled that Hillary Clinton could have leveraged into political advantage to her campaign. That Hillary Clinton lost the election is Hillary's responsibility since that election was hers to lose. Isn't it time to stop pointing fingers at the specters that only you can see and start working on developing candidates and messages that The Voters are going to be willing to support. Here's some help for you: Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, Alexandria and Beto are not going to be your saviors. They may even be your downfalls. Winning, just as losing in 2016, are up to you. The left did well in the 2018 election in spite of Facebook and Fox News. So why are you so enmired in the past?
Nancy B (Philadelphia)
@The Owl For very strong evidence that the Russian's cyber influence tipped the election to Trump, read Kathleen Jaimeson's Cyberwar. She concludes that their influence almost certainly accounts for the small margin of Electoral College votes that gave Trump the White House.
JL22 (Georgia)
@Bob Bruce Anderson, Well put. We need to look at the long-term consequences of what they've done to Democracy and the planet, and when we do, perhaps she's not so impressive.
Vsh Saxena (New Jersey)
Sandberg is overrated. One can argue that operational leadership of an excellent product (read the Facebook platform) is not the same thing as operational leadership of a platform or product that required reimaginations multiple times because for instance it needed to capture changing customer expectations multiple times and well. And, isn’t Facebook a monopoly? I do not think anyone would say that Sandberg helped Facebook become one. If anything, Sandberg postured up because of the free time and space afforded by a monopoly. So, what is all the fuss about Sandberg? Plus, it cannot be ruled out that Sandberg did not benefit from — and leverage — connections afforded by her name. Which by the way goes on to underscore point in the article that Lean In perhaps is relevant only for women who have at least some handouts from privilege.
S. L. (Saratoga Springs, NY )
Wonderful article on Sandberg. It's perhaps easy to say from the comfortable position of my desk, but I wonder if women are perhaps missing an opportunity when they lack the courage to be women and show their more feminine strength by actually caring about their fellows, their nation, and the world. It would be revolutionary for a woman to show courage through actions that revealed she possessed integrity and moral worth as well as business acumen. The first woman to do this will be the true trailblazer.
JoeG (Houston)
Sheryl Sandburg (Facebook), Heather Breach (Epipen) and Elizibeth Holmes (Theranos). Woman are better than men? I'd say they are about equal. This new wave of feminist not only think they are better than men but think they belong on a pedestal. What's next worship? Feminist are in desperate need of a reality check but when the fantasy is supported by fake statistics how do they find the truth? Do you want to be Sheryl Sandberg?
Righty (America)
If you were enamored with this woman, go back and check yourself. How int he world did she win you over with her empty meaningless statements? If she has a gift it is in saying things that sound impressive yet mean absolutely nothing. Male or female can we stop making wealthy c suite people heroes, leaders, icons... they are mainly good for one thing and that is how to make tons of money. Meanwhile there are so many other women worthy of our admiration and respect and as role models for our kids. How about Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who discovered lead water levels and their impact on kids? How about the three women who won Nobel prizes this year for physics, chemistry and peace? I am quite confident these four woman are individually more intelligent, brave and dedicated to meaningful issues than Sandberg.
Roland Berger (Magog, Québec, Canada)
Feminism is women's faith in themselves as women. Seeing it as a mission is questionable, and very dangerous socially.
Laura (New Hampshire)
The best line of the year: “A Gloria Steinem-Amelia Earhart-Oprah Winfrey Thanksgiving turducken.”
LTJ (Utah)
It looks like character trumps sex, politics, and optics. Despite the listening tour and leaning in, MZ and SS are basically indistinguishable from each other, as indifferent and self-absorbed executives.
Portola (Bethesda)
Yes, emphatically it was realistic to expect Sandberg, and indeed all senior Facebook executives, to behave differently. The Soros smear -- like all anti-Semitic smears -- tells it all. For shame.
Two in Memphis (Memphis)
Sheryl Sandberg was never a feminist icon.
mcgreivy (Spencer)
What ever the few failings of the Sandberg/Zukerberg Facebook dealings it would be a great mistake to see them as purveyors of evil for gain. Both of them have had more than they need for years. What is apparent is the wonderful motivation for their actions. They were in the process of connecting the whole world. Giving all of humanity a chance to speak to each other. Giving humanity access to instant information. Information which is the very foundation of our American civilization. While clearly there was abuse, it was abuse in search of a higher goal. Their platform makes modern democracy possible. How else would we know and understand the momentary actions of the would be dictator Donald Trump? In times past we would have wallowed in ignorance. Thanks to Facebook we now know almost instantly whatever is the latest heinous undertaking of this cabal of self-interested people
PBB (North Potomac, MD)
@mcgreivy I heartily disagree. Good journalists with good newspapers have been telling us everything about him since his rise to power. And, it's absolutely depressing that 50% of Americans get their news from FB. I read that last year, after the Cambridge Analytica debacle. I'm not sure it's true, but, even if it's just 30%, it's still depressing.
Linda (New Jersey)
@mcgreivy Many, many people aren't on Facebook and don't "wallow in ignorance." "Abuse in search of a higher goal" is acceptable? Stalin et al were firm believers in "The end justifies the means." Many of the people "communicating" on social media are simply exchanging ignorance and spite. If as you say, Facebook "makes modern democracy possible," this country is in worse trouble than I thought it was. Try reading "Darkness at Noon," a novel by Arthur Koestler.
cirincis (eastern LI)
@mcgreivy Really?!? All Facebook is about, and was EVER about (once it got past its original purpose of allowing college men to look at and rate the appeal of college women), is making money. And as far as knowing almost instantly about the latest heinous undertaking of a cabal of self-interested people, if that is the case, how did Trump get elected with its help? How are you able to distinguish what is a real voice and what is a Russian, or a bot, or something else manipulating your views through Facebook's platform? I never liked Facebook; I never "got" it (too many random thoughts of people I hadn't seen or heard from in years to have any real meaning for me). Wish I could claim prescience, that I resisted because I knew this is how it would turn out, but I can't. But I'm happy to be able to say I never bought in to the hype.
Shaun Narine (Fredericton, Canada)
Sheryl Sandberg was a remarkably privileged white woman who took that privilege and went even further with it. She is simply another business person; her "personal brand" was never a reality, just an image. The only reason anyone should think of her as a "feminist icon" is because that is how she presented herself. But it never took much to realize that there was a lot less going on.
Sage (California)
@Shaun Narine Well-stated. Sheryl does 'slick', faux sincerity very well. No there, there. FB is a capitalist enterprise; Mark and Sheryl have played a good game (until recently) about how FB is all about connecting the world. It's not. It is about profits. It's too big and needs oversight by a functioning Congress that isn't intimidated by it.
Chris Kox (San Francisco)
@Shaun Narine It is always us who are at fault for constructing cults of personality, or icons. We rush to raise poor humans up on pedestals, then knock them down in disappointment. Aung San Suu Kyi. It might help to issue a neuter edition of Reich's "Listen Little Person" though the message there is that the message never really carries, and we do go on creating and destroying our icons. As for Facebook, I used it only once with a class many years ago and realized then that it presented malicious opportunities, and thus stopped. We might recall its genesis in the Harvard Facebook, known affectionately as the "pig book" -- an annual publication with innocent intentions spawning nefarious use.
Sparky (NYC)
@Shaun Narine. She is now a feminist icon in a different way. Whenever someone says, "if only women ran the world, things would be different, people will respond what about Sheryl Sandberg?" and they will be right. Sandberg, Hillary Clinton, Susan Collins, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it is impossible to argue women, when given a seat of power, behave as a group better than men.
Michael Kennedy (Portland, Oregon)
Want to have an impact on all of this? Quit Facebook right now. Believe me, it's not difficult. Of course, Facebook keeps you online for another 30 days in an attempt to lure you back, but you can be strong and walk away. It ain't rocket science. It's little more than yearly Christmas letters sent on a daily basis. Facebook has all of talking AT each other instead off WITH each other. Who needs that nonsense? Send letters. Sent emails. Call people on the phone. Send real birthday cards. If you really want to communicate, then communicate, don't just broadcast sunsets. Facebook? It's little more than a nod on a busy street. Walk away and don't look back.
Lisa Murphy (Orcas Island)
There are many feminist role models to choose from, Sheryl Sandberg is simply not one of them. She promoted herself in every way and confided in us about everything including her grief. She works for a feckless company which has influence beyond its capacity to control and she is complicit in the damage. Women looking for advice and guidance in making good career choices that aren’t suspect or damaging to society have an embarrassment of riches. Madeline Albright, to Angela Merkel , even to the beleaguered but amazingly tough May, to the everyday heroines of indigenous movements and grass root politics. There’s Michelle Obama too! Sandberg isn’t a role model for much.
poslug (Cambridge)
Engaging in "dark arts" and sloppy cyber security does feminism no favors let alone protect our democracy and unnamed innocents. People mention Sandberg's tech degree but you only have to have been a serious and diligent reader about security threats, Russian malfeasance, and orchestrated dirty tricks in politics to have major warning lights go off when Stamos' cautions or Definers came up. Professional level cyber threats rarely get smaller or stay hidden and take down careers, companies, economies and potentially countries.
Timothy (Toronto)
I guess we all like our heroines and heroes to be larger than life. The heroines that I tend to notice are often pushing a baby carriage while walking the dog and somehow balancing a steaming coffee. We’re lucky, men and women both, to have those people to admire.
ERT (New York)
“I’m more interested in the fact that Sandberg apologized afterward. Would a guy have done that?” I have worked for male superiors who have apologized to me when they crossed a line (I’m also male, for what it’s worth). The Sandberg story illustrates what I’ve long believed: that no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., people who rise to the top of major corporations got there by being sharks, and stay there by wielding their power mercilessly. We’re not going to suddenly have kinder, gentler corporations with more women in charge. (I’m not saying women shouldn’t advance: just that the myth that business wouldn’t be so cutthroat with women in charge is s farce.)
fred (Miami)
Being catty over whether Sandberg is a good or bad feminist, a dry-eyed corporate leader bringing a soft touch or a ruthless self-preservationist exposes the question why, when she and Zuckerberg went before Congress, the lawmakers didn't bluntly charge them with endangeing American democracy and its rule of law. They needed to be told bluntly they were not grown up enough to understand the misdeed.
Nancy B (Philadelphia)
"Lean In" feminism is hollow feminism. The biggest problem for women is not that male executives are paid more than female executives. It's that a system rigged to give outsized profits and tax cuts to the executive class comes at the cost of the vast majority of women. Women in the US and around the world need healthcare, childcare, unions, and protection from violence and sexual assault. The values behind Lean In careerism are at odds with securing these crucial rights for women.
uwteacher (colorado)
A solid piece of writing for the most part. Why would anyone believe that a woman would not be capable of the same situational morality that is so often the rule with her male counterparts? Game of Thrones anyone? Queen Elizabeth 1? How about petty age and appearance shaming? "But now, we are seeing (not for the first time, but perhaps without the benefit of the full Photoshop experience?)" O.K. - that was the author but still a remark worthy of DJT.
Richard Green (San Francisco)
So, tell me again exactly how does Sandberg differ from any other CEO of a multi-billion dollar company? The persona she has been projecting differs sharply from the cut-throat competitor she is. Seems to me this is the equality that women have been striving for. A female CEO can be just as lousy a boss and "leader" as any male CEO. She and Zuckerberg are cut from the same rapacious cloth.
Denise (Boulder)
"Why do we assume female leaders are inherently gentler and less egomaniacal?" We don't assume it. We hope it. But when women are totally focused on succeeding by going along to get along and aping all things traditionally male, what can you expect? Got forbid women should "belly up to the table" and have the courage to change dysfunctional corporate culture. Instead, the women who are embraced and promoted in that culture are the women who idolize all things traditionally male.
Michael Hogan (Georges Mills, NH)
Treacherous ground indeed. To illustrate: When Ms. Senior describes the incident with Alex Stamos and the board her descriptor for Ms. Sandberg's reaction is "screamed," but later in the piece when she ponders rhetorically whether a male executive would do the same she uses the descriptor "yell." That said, the excuse that male executives behave just as badly is no excuse for Ms.Sandberg - no freebies, no get-out-of-jail-free cards. She is a senior leader of one of the most consequential and potentially destructive private enterprises in the world. She needs to step up.
Ed (Oklahoma City)
It's all about who enables bad behavior. The GOP enables Trump's gross actions and dangerous agenda. No king can rule without a willing coterie of compliant stooges. Facebook users (and a weak board) enable Sandberg and Zuckerberg's bad behavior. A few million users deleting their accounts would change the company over night. Any takers?
Earl W. (New Bern, NC)
"Sandberg, one of the country’s most influential and renowned feminists, may have contributed to the historic loss of the first viable female candidate for president of the United States." It's all too easy to blame the likes of Facebook when, instead, Democrats should take a close retrospective look at Hillary Clinton and ask why she failed to catch fire as a presidential candidate (spoiler alert: it wasn't the Russians). Perhaps voters "got her" and were tired of her too-clever-by half, inauthentic, say-anything-to-get-elected shtick wrapped around a political career that has over-promised and under-delivered. That's the real reason former Obama voters stayed home; they simply weren't buying what establishment Democrats were ramming down their throats.
Brendan (Durham, NC)
Facebook has made mistakes. It violated users’ trust many times over. That said, this piece is unfair and cruel. To write that Sandberg is “easily rattled” because she was angry after a high-pressure board meeting goes being a double standard. It assumes Sandberg should be kinder and gentler because she's a woman. This piece makes those kind of assumptions throughout. And that “Photoshop” jab? Playing dirty. Bringing Sandberg’s appearance into a conversation about criticism she rightfully deserves is evidence that yes, women are judged by a different and harsher standard than men.
John (NC)
This is what happens when you look at someone else as your compass, your guide, your model. And when the compass inflates their ability to act as such.
TomF (Chicago)
Often by their own choice, the ambitious woman executives I have known tend not to be "kinder and gentler," and it is a form of sexism to ascribe cuddlier, more empathetic traits to a whole gender. Many woman C-suite occupants, VPs on their way up, etc. that I have known co-opt the worst qualities of brutal, maniacal male managers and turn it up to 11, thinking that is how the game must be played. They abuse subordinates, pile on work, play Game of Thrones, office version... even, in one or two cases in my rear-view mirror, engage in harassment. They may or may not have been "feminists," but professionally they were not very good people as they "leaned in" ruthlessly, and they did a lot of cultural (and sometimes quantitative) damage feeding their ambition. Sandberg may or may not be a feminist -- I suspect not, and that all the warm, fuzzy life advice to her putative "sisters" was a cynical, fake veneer -- but she is clearly not a woman much bothered by ethics, transparency, or accountability. She is more Facebook than woman, which is how things should be, is it not? She should be judged accordingly -- without gender bias or presumption of goodness -- and very harshly.
Alan Carmody (New York)
Sheryl Sandberg is one of the plastic saints of the new Age of the Plutocracy, in which we live. But that's on us, who hero worship even the most banal utterances of those who have been enriched by the mechanisms of the capitalist IPO markets, and put these people on pedestals. That being said, the headline "Sheryl Sandberg Can’t Have It All" is crass and cruel at the same time. Ms. Sandberg was widowed, unexpectedly, only a few years ago.
GenerationXChick (Indiana)
I never read Lean In or Option B. Why? Sandberg’s leadership style has never been a style that I have admired. Her focus is on a singular entity which frankly is no different than any other corporate-climbing, alpha-male.
ginger wentworth (cal)
Why would you call her 'one of this country's most influential feminists'? Truly I am asking. She is a comforting book writer. She fits in, that's all. She isn't an activist of any kind or an innovator-- she's just a woman who's gotten ahead in business. She's pretty, she's smart, and we have no idea whether she had to irritate anyone on the way or if she managed to get that advancement just by working hard and pleasing the bosses. None of that makes her a feminist and I'd say, from the times I've been in jobs and surrounded by men who controlled my destiny there, it meant the opposite. It meant I was often smiling when I didn't want to. She seems like that type to me, and apparently that is the advice she actually gives. She's a public relations natural, so it seems to me, and that's it.
Steve (NJ)
This editorial dances around the ring without throwing any formidable punches. Sandburg was more mercurial than strategic, and had no no problem placing corporate profits over county. This decision had more to do with character than gender. For this she should be remembered as another corporate villain rather than a capable woman navigating the double-standards of rough-and-tumble business ethics established by men. Personally, I'll never forgive her for failing to sound the alarm at the first sign of trouble from Russian interference in our election. As a result, those of us in the 99% get to live with the results of her selfishness while she gets to count her money. Shame on her!
Karen hill (Columbus Ohio)
Sandburg set herself up on a pedestal as a paragon of business acumen and the ideal feminist. She did not - could not - live up to her own standard.
Sean (Westlake, OH)
When I was reading this it seemed as though you were describing Hillary Clinton. The truth is that powerful women are no different than powerful men. It seems that the pursuit of power always corrupts from what is right and just.
Al from PA (PA)
Define "feminism" as women's "success" in an individualist-capitalist regime of profit making, economic "growth," and elite wealth accumulation--and this is what you get.
Cloud 9 (Pawling, NY)
It remains to be seen what damage, Sandberg, Melissa Mayer, Elizabeth Holmes, etal will do to the efforts of women with integrity to succeed in the business world.
John Norris (Vermont)
Here are the words Sandberg and Zuckerberg fear. Facebook cannot regulate themselves. The Feds need to do it for them.
Bri (Toronto)
Sandberg and Zuckerberg delivered us Trump via their Facebook tool, yet millions log in daily. Apathy is rampant.
Paul (Trantor)
Imagine what Facebook could be with ethical, grounded, honest people running it?
Lois (Michigan)
Those who seek jobs in big corporations do so because they know that's where they'll find the highest salary and the best benefits. The trade-off is that surrounded by manicured lawns and lovely artwork, these organizations are the most cutthroat, backstabbing workplaces on the planet. And so by the very nature of the beast, it's axiomatic that no man OR woman ascends to the position where Sandberg is perched without being ruthless.
MJM (Newfoundland Canada)
No one, woman or man, gets to the top of any large organization without convincing the gate keepers that they are just like the other people on top. To get there you have to make the job more important than everything else including your family and your own personal beliefs. These are the "sacrifices" you must make. Every promotion you scrape off a little more of your humanity and compassion until one day you don't recognize yourself. Survival depends on getting high enough up to earn enough to support your family, but not so high as to lose all touch with who you really are. There is no compassion in capitalism. No one, man or woman, makes it to the top without becoming "one of the boys".
LS (Maine)
Sadly, she's just the usual American businessperson.
JLW (Pittsburgh)
Talk about the female or feminist or corporate maneuvering or anger aspects of this saga is missing the point. Man or woman - it doesn't matter. What matters is that she took dishonest measures and then lied about them.
Theni (Phoenix)
Blame the millions of gullible Facebook users who bought into those false stories. When you build an open platform which has no oversight whatsoever, what did we expect? Sandberg and Zuckerberg are in for the money and would care less for our democracy. We the people and the free press on the other hand need to be watchful of people like these and the Trumps. Good luck with trying to curtail someone from making a fast buck or billions of fast bucks in this case!
Georgia Lockwood (Kirkland, Washington)
Few humans, male or female, can escape the truism that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The Sanity Cruzer (Santa Cruz, CA)
It simply comes down to a question of whether you are a person of integrity. Are you not only being the person the person that you say who you are AND the person you know others count on you to be. Put another way: Are your actions in alignment with to what you say you are committed? Obviously, Sheryl Sandberg is not a person of high integrity when it is difficult. Being a person of high integrity does not mean that you always do what you say you are going to do, but it does mean that you clean up your mess when called out on it. That seems to be where she AND Zuckerberg fail miserably. Saying you're "sorry" doesn't mean spit if when the behavior for which you're "sorry" continues or even amplifies! Facebook? Phased Look. They will go the way of the dinosaur.
Ron A (Boston)
Why should we think that a female leader would be gentler and less egomaniacal? Because for decades women have insisted “if only women ran the world things would be different- less war, better education, etc.” Its tough going when reality stomps on mythology.
BeeBee (Brooklyn)
I would be interested in knowing the ratio of men to women on Sandberg's immediate team, where she has hiring power.
Rick (Summit)
Great op ed piece! Gender aside, I think for anyone in a powerful corporate position it is very hard to merge your political and social ideals with the demands of running a successful business in this capitalistic environment - your commitment has to be to your shareholders. Facebook ran off the rails because of the people who used it. Not because of the software. Kind of like religion.
lkatz (Tipton, Iowa)
I want to say one word to you, just one word: fiduciary. this was her job.
Chris Buczinsky (Arlington Heights)
There is only one thing more amazing than how, after such the long train of corporate malefactors in American history, we can continue to equate money and value, and that is how we can continue to fall for their self-mythologizing cant. Sandberg’s “lean in” mantra simply dressed our stale protestant work ethic in shiny, high-tech feminist garb.
Jean (Cleary)
Zuckerberg hired in his own image. Remember how he ended up with Facebook in the first place. By stealing the idea, then convincing his best friend to bankroll it and be his partner, then trying to cheat his best friend out of his share. Zuckerberg must have heard Sandberg’s “prom story” and knew he had someone who thinks like him. Sandberg and Zuckerberg are quite a team.
Mobocracy (Minneapolis)
Feminism often seems to suffer from the "No true Scotsman" or appeal to purity fallacy. A: No feminist would be a hard-driving executive at a corporation. B: But Sheryl Sandberg is a feminist and an executive. A: No *true* feminist would be an executive. It also strikes me that feminists often punish success the same way, any women who is successful in a male-dominated field must somehow have stopped being female or must be evil. It's almost like you have to be unsuccessful and oppressed to be a feminist.
Rod Stevens (Seattle)
No one "needs it all", but they do need one thing: character.
Garrison1 (Boston)
Sheryl Sandberg gets out of bed in the morning thinking methodically about how to build her “brand” in a way that will maximize her personal power and wealth. There’s no mystery here, this is emblematic of how things are done at the upper reaches of corporate America. Adherence to higher ideals? Only if its in service to the higher objectives of the corporation and (more critically, the long term career plan). You do not ever want to see the inner political workings of these corporations that purport to be “changing the world”. There’s a reason Sandberg wrote her book and went on a two year speaking tour while Facebook’s house was burning down. And the reason is that she fancies herself destined for great things in Washington DC. We need to stop lauding such people and start seeing them for what they are.
Dan Morgan (Florida)
Celebrity worshippers always get disappointed. It's not the celebrities fault — it's the fault of the person doing the worshipping. We need a lot fewer celebrities and a lot more common sense.
Frank (NYC)
This article shows the sexist bias about how we assign blame. If we associate the company with a male founder - ex Twitter, Google - we blame the company. Twitter did far more to damage democracy in 2016. But here it’s a woman, so we blame her. Not the founder, CEO, person who named it—but the #2 who came on when it was already a successful company. I don’t think this article would ever have been written about a man.
Max duPont (NYC)
A non-technical person leading a tech company, throwing her weight around at the security officer for bearing had news, while absorbed in developing her external image and enduring a horrific personal tragedy, ... What could possibly go wrong? Oh, the arrogance of it all!
magicisnotreal (earth)
People are people. Greedy phony people are still just as obvious as they always have been. How anyone bought into her PR stunts is beyond me.
jim m (Mahwah, NJ)
Yes, she has it all. Including one of the most obvious and poorly executed nose jobs we've ever seen on a public figure.
Disembodied Internet Voice (ATL)
"She was a feminist leader, corporate path-breaker and spiritual superempath all rolled into one" JACEO trying to maximize shareholder value. If the job required biting the heads off of kittens, she'd find a way to make that seem completely normal.
Adam (Connecticut)
Aung San Suu Kyi leaned in for a time as well... now maybe not so much.
Anita (Richmond)
She's not an icon for anything but corporate greed. Oh and she just happened to write a book. Big deal. Anyone can do that.
Rhporter (Virginia)
So it turns out she is both human and business oriented instead of a comic book character! And our author professes to be shocked! Thank you captain Renault
Joanne Dougan, M.Ed. (NYC/SF/BOS)
I hope her kids write books about their childhood. Unlike "Lean In", I would read them from cover to cover.
Marc (Williams)
Who cares if she yells and gets angry? She didn't get to where she is by being nice all the time and why should she have to? What I do care about, however, is corporate and personal integrity from the person at the top. What I do care about is when your security officer tells you that you have some major weaknesses that quickly need addressing, you don't attack the messenger, you deal with the message. A reader below says we compromised our own privacy and it's true, we did. And facebook monetized our behavior just as they should have and as a shareholder I was all in. And still am. But when it comes to dealing with tough, REALLY tough decisions, deflecting and denying is not being a strong leader, it's being a weak one. And that is true of Mr. Zuckerberg as well as Ms. Sandberg.
Angus Cunningham (Toronto)
@Marc Who cares if Trump yells and gets angry? About 50% of the electorate reached by pollsters interested in a USA-wide perspective.
Sad Sack (Buffalo)
"With so few examples to draw from, how on earth would we even know?" The world is ~50% women, the boardroom is not the only place to observe how women function to succeed and or get through life. The examples are everywhere. I am a woman and I know that they can be just like men in order to get what they want in life, no matter what it is.
Barbara (416)
Sandberg's 'Lean In' told me all I needed to know about her. A commercial croc. Her stance after the Facebook shenanigans came to light did not surprise me. She played a " mans' game " and has to " take it like a man." She has no choice.
Kreon (Maplewood)
Sandberg has - like those many of the men in power whose table she joined - put #leanin over #dotherightthing. The challenge to to use power responsibly is human and not gendered.
William Smith (United States)
@Kreon "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"-Spiderman RIP Stan Lee
Bos (Boston)
Perhaps it is difficult for her supporters to go 180 degrees on Sheryl Sandberg but saying Mark Zuckerberg is the one to blame misses the corrosiveness of power and its derivative, money! Look, Ms Sandberg has not had a happily-ever-after personal life and the nation has felt about it. And the inequality and inequity between the sexes have certainly made her a leader to look to. Both she and Mr Zuckerberg are top .001% of the world so was another $200K rubles made a difference? Probably not. So why they did what they did and they are still not owing it up even now? Power and its agent, money. Some of you may not agree with me but their reactions to criticism were no different from Trump! These people who criticize me are my enemy. They make the Clintons look like boy scouts! At least Chelsea Clinton came to the defense of Baron Trump because she was in his shoes growing up in the White House. In the end, we are human and we all make mistakes. And the mean drunks do mean things when they are drunk. The sooner they wake up to these human "qualities," the better they are. The Facebook duo are still young to change, so it may be better not to rationalize for them so they can go on the road to recovery sooner. Or else? Look at Trump, his meanness is hardened with age, expecting a 70 some year old man to change is far more harder
Glenn (Clearwater, Fl)
During 2008 election campaign, a fervent Republican supporter, complained that an Obama position was purely political. I pointed out to him that it didn't matter if the GOP or the Democrats won the election, our next president was going to be a politician. The same is true of corporate leadership. While there are the occassional exceptions to the rule, people who make it to the top of large corporate entities are politicians. That doesn't make them bad people, but it should give you pause before elevating them to sainthood.
HLP (Chicago, IL)
Carla Harris, Vice Chairman & Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, wrote a book, “Expect To Win”, that offers women AND men more sage advice in navigating the corporate world than “Lean In” does. There are 10 of “Carla’s pearls” shared in the book, the most important is authenticity. When we become more fixated on building images and personal brands to attract followers, we are highly likely to lose or compromise our authenticity. Women AND men must always focus on being true to themselves and the people they are charged to serve and lead. Servitude and leadership are the not only the foundation for living authentically, but for also living without regret. I hope Sheryl Sandberg finds her authentic voice.
Debra (Chicago)
Sandberg's selection of a right wing PR firm was able to "lean in" to the right wing media echo-system in a way that other firms could not. At the time before the 2016 election, there were probably many conservatives who would have found the Russian trolls menacing. Trump's stance for Russia was more controversial at that time, and not yet a part of the new Trump coalition against Iran. If a company was to save it's reputation among the right, there is no choice but to craft a message which appeals to them. Today that group represents 30% or more of the population, a significant market. As the book Network Propaganda shows, information must penetrate right wing media and confirm the biases of the audience in order to be widely accepted. At the same time, we on the left can criticize the misinformation that the firm had to spread in order to get reputation saving information into that network.
John Parks (Sarasota)
Thank you Ms. Senior for this first-rate piece of moral criticism of a real live Ayn Rand character. We've returned to a debate that raged in the late 19th century and early 20th century over the power and size of corporations and whether a society can meaningfully regulate them for the public good and safety. We need your thinking about this.
Paul (Ocean, NJ)
I find it ludicrous that Sheryl Sandburg is being criticized for not adhering to a moral standard because she is a woman. She has made a serious mistake in the decision making process and that should be the focus. The expectations of her or any women should be gender neutral. She should not be criticized for “not being a feminist” or for losing her temper and calling out a coworker. It puzzles me that some people find it remarkable that a women has achieved something of the highest order in her life because she is a women or conversely fell into disrepute. Ms. Sandburg has a lot of achievements in her life that deserve praise and some mistakes that deserve her being held accountable for on the basis of her being a business person. It should not be viewed as remarkable because she is a women.
Allan Woods (Cantley, Quebec)
As Chief Executive, Sandberg's primary concern is to protect and expand the value her company provides it's shareholders - this is a legal duty. Her job is not to promote or improve democracy. If Facebook were to take measures that promoted the public good without showing that they would be good for the company's bottom line, investors would punish Facebook by selling stock or filing law suits. (This is also why "corporate social responsibility is bunk - PR at best).
ak (NYC)
Thanks for this essay; I agree with much of it, and have always thought SS to be too cunning to be believed. The comments of others below, those that I have read thus far, focus largely on FB and SS being a feminist. But for me the focus should not be on that, but on the undeniable distinction that people place on gender in influential and powerful places, be that politics, corporations, sports, et al. Power begets power, and gender is not the operative, but the excuse for many. Gender has been a particular target by those who seek power (worldwide, in all strata). Morals, ethics, empathy, behavior are not inherently gender-based. That SS has shown her true colors is not at all surprising, or shocking (YES, disappointing). To get ahead in any field, you have to be calculating and cunning, and there is nothing wrong with that. To do so with care and concern for its ripple-effect is what distinguishes. Stop labeling "feminists" as remarkable and thus holding them to a standard that exists only in the minds of dreamers. Women AND men have to change their basic standards of success that is inclusive of not only gender, but of all considerations for the vast majority of the world's population, and of course the environment. Continuing to separate the behavior of women and judging them by some "different" list of behaviors only increases the probability of total failure to change the power-greed-money_hungry culture that has gotten us here in the first place.
Thanks for a bit of common sense. In my work life, I have seen male and female leaders play all the same power games and abuse power in the same ways. It is not about gender, it is about power. Having more female leaders will be good in some ways, but will also make it clear that everyone plays these games. If we want a different leadership culture we need to stop idolizing people at the ‘top’, and bring more balance regarding accountability and money into the relationship between workers and leaders.
Leo (Middletown CT)
Feminism that focuses on the advancement of a few women to positions of existing power, instead of disassembling the power structure that oppresses the majority of women in the world, is bound to disappoint. Gloria Steinem worked for the CIA to undercut the very feminist movement she was a figurehead of, but it was great for her career. Hillary Clinton sold herself as a feminist while supporting bombing campaigns that led to the death and suffering of women abroad, but it was “pragmatic” for her politically. Instead of heralding women who give power to themselves feminism would do better to trumpet women that work to spread power to fellow workers. The individual lean in feminism of Sandberg will lead to powerful women who happily and readily exploit the labor of the women under the just the same as their male counterparts.
ACJ (Chicago)
For all of Ms. Sandberg's focus on strategy---her response to the Facebook fiasco departed radically from what a PR strategists would have recommended in this case: 1) admit the vulnerabilities of the facebook platform; 2) admit that Facebook did not understand all the consequences of its new platform; 3) admit particular "hacks" or misuse of the platform; 4) outline a detailed plan for addressing these problems; 5) encourage and even recommend possible regulations the Congress should consider passing; and last but least, even if it damages the bottom line, cut out components of the platform that are the most vulnerable to unwanted intrusions. The last recommendation is the most important---a company that has it's hand caught in the proverbial tech cookie jar needs to show some bottom line pain.
Quandry (LI,NY)
Bottom line: Sandberg and Zuck...the buck literally stops and stays with them. There is no such thing as corporate altruism, fairness and especially kindness from these corporate sharks to their members. Anything contrary is just a lying sham. Not FB management et al. Your personal data profits, stop with them. If one want the Wizard of Oz.
Michael (North Carolina)
The sad truth in the US today is that, especially as a woman, one doesn't get to the pinnacle of corporate management without being hyper-focused, hyper-ambitious - to the point of obsessive and, too often, ruthless. I expect the same is true of the highest level in politics, but Nikki Haley could tell us for sure. Those two, admittedly from a (safe) distance, appear to have a lot in common.
Chris Rasmussen (Highland Park, NJ)
The growing number of women executives, politicians, etc. is one of the most important changes in American society in recent decades. That said, I have never particularly thought of Sheryl Sandberg a feminist, and I certainly question Jennifer Senior's description of Sandberg as a "feminist icon," as though she is some sort of 21st-century Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Sandberg's book, "Lean In," advises women how to achieve career success. Her advice is no doubt useful for women in seeking to advance their business career, and more female executives will be a good thing not only for women, but for our society generally. I don't begrudge Sandberg's money, power, or fame, and I am sure that her success is, in its way, a victory of sorts for women's equality and an inspiration to her readers and admirers. But feminism it is not.
Kim Humiston (North Carolina)
Definitely not a feminist and not a true leader. What one wants and expects from any person in authority is a commitment to ethical behavior. Male or female (and I have never considered her anything but a cold calculating businessman), one’s legacy is made by one’s behavior. Success can depend upon not cutthroat tactics but instead on a set of moral and ethical imperatives: respect for oneself and others, the law, and personal and corporate integrity. A fundamental element of profitably creating and selling a “product” of any kind whether a widget or time, depends upon this kind of behavior. Businesses are not sustainable when based on lies and cheats - like Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, or any Trump company - all failures because of rot at the core.
Another Wise Latina (USA)
Whatever else she is, she's not a feminist in any sense of the word. Feminists don't intentionally look for ways to monetize despair, and, as the author of this essay pointed out (thank you Ms. Senior): "Sandberg, one of the country’s most influential and renowned feminists, may have contributed to the historic loss of the first viable female candidate for president of the United States." That sums up these lady businessman.
What does facebook do that's useful for regular users, not advertisers and shareholders, aside from needlessly enabling them to hook up with people they knew when they were 8, all while wasting tons of what could otherwise be productive time?
John (Allentown)
@MIKEinNYCit’s fun sometimes. But don’t do it!
Thomas G (Clearwater,FL)
Shahbaby (NY)
The question is would she be what she is, sans FB? I find these giant corporations often create niches and hollows into which the nearest available water seeps. She was there, FB needed her and she flowed right into the role. She did what FB needed her to do...leadership, loyalty and dishonesty were all included in this package deal. Let's not kid ourselves. We created the persona that is Sandberg by pasting our Face to a digital voyeuristic window instead of to an intensely private experience e.g. a Book!
patcaro (va)
She put her own interests and the interests of her company above those of her country. She is not a person to be admired.
Colenso (Cairns)
There are creators, innovators and iconoclasts. Hypatia, Jane Austen, Marie Curie were creators. The truly extraordinary Aphra Benn, whom I have long admired above almost all others, was a brilliant innovator and iconoclast. Sheryl Sandberg? Just another ambitious functionary.
Colenso (Cairns)
@Colenso Tsk, Behn not Benn.
JMJackson (Rockville, MD)
Oh, for goodness sake. Sheryl Sandberg is an executive of a huge corporation. Of course she sometimes gets angry and yells. Of course she fudges the truth in favor of her company. And of course, she tries to make herself look good. What’s the story here? The story is that so many people feel “victimized” by a piece of software that exposes humanity’s worst impulses daily. Facebook didn’t do anything to anyone. We did it, and do it, to ourselves.
““Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place.” -Sheryl Sandberg Nope, no story here. Just another corporate hypocrite.
spb (richmond, va)
@JMJackson. I think what you miss is the profoundly negative impact of the interference that was allowed to propagate through the extremely influential platform that Sandberg's company provides. Facebook is not a window onto the reality of our culture when it can be overrun by bots with malicious intent. That was and still is the problem with Facebook, and we are now beginning to see behind the curtain a little bit.
John (Sharon ,PA)
Facebook didn't do anything? Other than allow the Russians misinformation campaign to insure that Trump got elected. Sandberg and Zuckerberg are not mere greedy rubes. They are vile theives that looked the other way to make more money. Unfortunately, most of our corporate CEO superstars are not super business people. They are greedy self serving pigs that are willing to forsake our great democracy for personal profit.
Bertie (NYC)
She is complicit too! Women are complex and many successful women are better at politics than worrying about employees well being, especially women employees who look upto them, but they couldnt care less.
Marc (USA)
Pity the people who (time and again) fall for these ‘angels of wisdom’ who rather routinely turn out to be another billionaire (or a wannabe) most concerned with their net worth, which lately includes a very shameless social aspect. She is as feminist as DJT is a warrior for the middle class.
James (San Diego)
Someone needs to invent a social platform that only allows individual human beings, verified, access under a code of conduct.
Leigh (Qc)
As to Sheryl Sandberg's feet of clay, not a big surprise from someone who has done so much harm to our modern world, beginning with the proudly dumb name of her company that's an offence to anyone who cares about the English language, and ending with how her company, with it's underhanded business plan of collecting data by selling its product as harmless fun that's perfectly free, has conned billions of people into throwing away countless hours that will never come again foolishly snooping on others when not spilling the beans on themselves to the absolute delight and profit of the day's highest bidder.
Frank (NYC)
It’s not HER company. She didn’t start it or name it!
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
Gee, and this is a surprise? When it comes to people in hot pursuit of this much money and power, you might want to take off your rose-tinted blinkers next time you're assessing their self-promoting public account of who they are, what they're up to and why they're up to it.
Harry (St. Louis)
Shock! Horror! Sheryl Sandberg thinks first about the interests of the company she leads and “feminism” second. Look, I hate to break it to you but that’s her duty. Deal with it - to do otherwise is to hold women to a different - and false - ethical standard.
John Brews ..✅✅ (Reno NV)
So Sandberg isn’t a saint! Can we focus not upon tarnish, but upon the massive destruction Facebook facilitates in ignoring all responsibility other than making money?
Emily J Hancock (Geneva, IL)
We love seeing someone taken down, don't we? Let's keep railing on Facebook while our Congress sits around and does nothing.
RS (Seattle)
She thought being voted 'Most Likely to Succeed' would nix her chances at a prom date? That's weird.
eyny (nyc)
The opportunity and platform to be an Eleanor Roosevelt squandered. Oh, wait! Sandberg is a corporate Madonna-type. What will be her newest face to the public after this? What will the sheeple of this world buy next? She and her advisors are hard at work. A vision of Eleanor Roosevelt is coming into focus. Bet on it, but don't buy it.
J.C. (Michigan)
"Why do we assume female leaders are inherently gentler and less egomaniacal?" And yet that's exactly the myth the New York Times opinion pages (and many others) have been pushing for years. When do we finally get to put it to rest? Maybe during the same future era when we finally decide that business people, male or female, are the worst kind of people to be running our country.
Donald K. Joseph (Elkins Park, a suburb of Philadelphia )
I1.23.18: It's the same attitude that brought down former president of Penn State Graham Spanier. Reputation outside the organization was more important then truth and the appropriate actions within it. Sandusky was allowed to continue to abuse children - and Sandburg hid the harm to the country.
CC (Australia)
I wonder if we would be having this discussion if the name was Steve Sandberg....
Richard Mclaughlin (Altoona PA)
So it's clear now that the leaning in was just a pose. It was just an act to appear as a guppy, when she knew she was a shark. She knew that everything she had done to get ahead needed to be covered up with the opposite look and feel to have the image she wanted. So now, did she even write "Lean In"? Did she even co-write "Plan B"? Just what we thing about Ms Sandberg is actually true. How many layers are there to this stinking onion?
Gwen Vilen (Minnesota)
@ Socrates. I would like to nominate you as Best NYT's Commentator of the Year. When whipping through comments I always stop to read yours. You always get right to point with your great wit, intelligence, and exceptional facility with words. This comment is no exception. Thanks for your service!
Gustav (Durango)
Sorry, but for those of you in the media who couldn't peg Ms Sandberg as a ham-fisted marketer from the get-go, I cannot muster much empathy. Did you even hear how often she would repeat the title of her books, "LEAN IN!!!!" over and over. It was pretty obvious, and only now do you realize you have been conned. Again. We have needed more skepticism in our journalists for about 38 years now. You have some catching up to do.
RAR (Los Angeles)
I never had any respect for Ms. Sandberg because she was part of creating and abetting an unethical, immoral company. What is she a role model for? Selling your soul for money? Putting profits above the very foundation of our democracy? Sorry, Sheryl, you are not an example of what any person (female or not) should emulate.
Azza (Australia)
So... you either die the hero, or live long enough to become the villain?
How do you feel about Sanders and Zuckerberg willingly and knowingly weaponizing facebook and your account to influence the 2016 and 2018 elections? And Sheryl, you and Zuckerberg threw yourselves under the bus with the Soros story. It screams volumes about you as a person when you can't own your decisions. I hope Mr. Soros litigates for nothing more than the discovery process so the world can know and fully understand the power and downside of social media. I once was a believer, but am no longer. BTW, phone calls and meeting friends and family for coffee and meals still works great...just saying.
Ilona (planet earth)
My view of Sheryl Sandburg has not been complicated in the least by these latest revelations. It's always been clear to me that she is a self-serving narcissist whose books were not really designed to help women but for us to notice how Fab she is and engage in a little Sheryl worship. Sorry, no. The height of her disgustingness (until now( had been her book written less than two years after her husband's death about how she has so fabulously dealt with grief and you can to! Really, in two years she worked through grief and had time to reflect and come to terms with her loss? Instead I wonder how grieved she really was. And feminist icon? No, she's no feminist. She's a Sherly Sandbergist. And in this respect she truly does fit into the arrogant, puerile, emotionally arrested world of Silicon Valley. Can we save the term feminist icon for truly extraordinary women like Michelle Obama and Stacie Abrams to name a few. Or just the other day I saw an interview with Billie Jean King and forgot what a warrior she was and is for equality. Or Tarana Burke. Or Cecile Richards. So many of our new congresswomen. The list goes on, but Sheryl Sandburg does not and never has earned a place among these truly heroic women.
JD (Arizona)
@IlonaTHANK YOU! I completely agree with you. Sandberg was the originator of the myth she was a feminist. Baloney from day one. "Lean In" proved it. Feminist writers across the nation attacked the book and the concept. The book was so insulting to women. Sandberg is not a fallen feminist. She never belonged in the pantheon of feminists you mention, like Richards, Abrams, King. She has never been in the same league. Bell hooks has a term for women like her: male-identified women. Honestly, I hope I never see another writer put "Sandberg" and "feminist" in the same sentence--unless there is a "not" between the two.
Ricky (Willamette valley )
My relentlessly annoying question I ask capitalist feminists is a version of “Why do we assume female leaders are inherently gentler and less egomaniacal?” Yes we should strive for gender parity in the workplace, including “at the top”. But maybe these kinds of hierarchical structures are part of the problem? Putting a woman in power does not magically create a compassionate, humanistic, self-aware culture. Women can be ruthless and cruel. And short-sighted and greedy. And make mistakes. Just like men.
Glenn Ribotsky (Queens)
@Ricky Yup. We've set up a corporate system in which ambition equals ruthlessness, and only the most selfishly power-obsessed can rise through the ranks. People with conscience, male or female, will be punished by a system in which shareholder value is job one, two, three, and four, and any attempt to temper profiteering with other concerns will get you shown the door. Prioritizing the bottom line over anything and everything else is not gender specific. We have to do something to change what the system rewards and what it sees as important. The general welfare is certainly not a major, or even minor, concern at your standard corporate board meeting.
Miriam Warner (San Rafael)
@Ricky I've been saying that for 50 years, ever since the 60's. It is why I was never much of a feminist back then which seemed so focused on rising in the men's world and getting a bigger piece of the pie. I wanted a different pie altogether, so did most of us in the 60's. When we were focused on living in harmony with each other and the planet, growing our food (organically, I might add) staying home with our children, we were derided by feminists as "barefoot and pregnant." And while that was true, we were living from love and caring, and put our lives on the line to make the world a better place. And many of us have continued to do that our entire adult lives.
Sally (South Carolina)
Please help me understand what is a “capitalist feminist”? That defines a person who believes all people are equal and makes money. But what does it mean to you? I would really like to know, honestly. Is it a woman who supports herself until she finds a man and then decides to continue working because A. They need her salary and/or benefits and B. Maybe she enjoys what she does? Is it a woman who truly believes that she can do a job as well as a man and maybe better than some men? Is it a woman who continues to work after having kids? What defines “capitalist feminism” for you.
MB California (California)
Thank you for this excellent article. I have read several of Ms. Sandberg's books and never could quite figure out how they applied to me. Now I don't feel so bad about it -- except for the wasted money! She is of Russian Jewish heritage. I expected more trustworthy behavior - guess I was wrong.
Madeline Conant (Midwest)
I too have found Ms. Sandberg's cynical self promotion off-putting. However, it seems unfair to criticize her for essentially doing her job. Which, at that level, includes protecting her company from really bad press and other incursions. Where she sits, life is stressful and can be unpleasant, but of course she is getting a massive paycheck for it. So, I'm not going to feel sorry for her, but I don't expect her to be Mary Poppins, either.
Kenneth Brady (Staten Island)
I quit Facebook over 2 years ago. No regrets - quite the opposite, far fewer worries. I also quit owning a car. Why do people get hooked on destructive technologies? They are addictive. Ms. Sandberg has not yet seen the light. She knows not what she enables.
Susan Poynor (Frankfurt Germany)
I feel the writer uses a double standard here. Can’t a woman make tough business decisions (and yes make a lot of money) and yet also be an inspiration to others? Sheryl is COO and then also a mom and woman sharing her experiences. I found her book full of great career advice. Perhaps she made a few mediocre business decisions. No executive is perfect. She is still allowed to pass on advice. Her prom story is funny and why bring it up here? It seems a bit petty. Wanting to make a good impression is not a bad thing. Bringing up her personal loss is a bit cruel. Why does society critizise women who want it all? Its a good ambition. I think people feel women shouldn’t be given a big slice of cake. As if we should stay modest. Women are allowed to be fierce, kind, loving and yes also successful. I applaud women wanting to have it all.
Sue Frankewicz (Shelburne Falls, MA)
@Susan Poynor I would say that Sheryl is a capitalist for sure and a feminist only in that context. That women are equal to men in their capacity to abuse power, connive, compete, defraud appears to be true. Some of us thought feminism was more than that but possibly we were wrong. Maybe we need a new word to encompass the concept of women's wisdom about how to create a sustainable world where cooperation is more important than competition and where truth is more valued than money. It would not be a capitalist world now would it?
Sparky (NYC)
@Susan Poynor. She did not make a few mediocre business decisions. She hid the fact that she was duped into handing over the election to a wannabe dictator, grifter and science denier. There have been few more momentous and disastrous corporate decisions in the history of American commerce.
J Raymond (Silver Spring)
@Susan Poynor The answer to your second sentence is: hopefully not.
Brian (Oakland, CA)
Sandberg is a disappointment. It's not her careful PR, button-holing politicians that matters. It's that she misunderstood how Facebook could be manipulated. Blame Zuckerberg too, for this, but it's his baby. Sandberg should have known better. Everyone at Facebook understands how their newsfeeds work. They know they steer towards extremes. It's not limited to FB, it's all over the web. But it irks me that FB's C-level folks didn't grok graph theory, don't see how targeted nodes can flip large groups. They should have been all over those points, sniffing out what was happening. Instead they were clueless. When the history books get written, lack of network understanding undermined the social network wunderkinds.
woodyrd (Colorado)
The Facebook/Sandberg debacle validates what so many have been saying all along: Stop focusing so much on identity, whether it be gender, race or anything else. Instead, focus on the abuse of power. That is where corruption and injustice breed. Egotistical, selfish, greedy people abuse power. That fact is independent of all types of identity. When the conversation honors this fact, we can stop putting people in boxes and begin to come together to work for a more just society. And no, I am not holding my breath.
Unconventional Liberal (San Diego, CA)
A similar story to Sandberg's occurred in Seattle, which elected an openly gay mayor in 2014 by the name of Ed Murray. The citizenry were confident that a gay man would govern more effectively than a straight person, would be more compassionate (having experienced discrimination), and might even be more ethical. We Seattleites (I lived there back then) congratuated ourselves on our open-mindedness. The mayor was not what you would call one of the most effective. Homelessness skyrocketed and the city had no policy. The police department, with multiple racist and violent transgressions, had to be controlled by the Feds. Finally, it all came crashing down when multiple lawsuits from different plaintiffs accused the mayor of previously having abused vulnerable young boys. Specifically, the accusations were child abuse, rape, and sexual molestation. Why did we think a gay man would be more ethical and effective? Or did we just think it was a gay person's "turn"? Is sexual orientation a good reason to vote for someone?
Miriam Warner (San Rafael)
@Unconventional Liberal Exactly. There was a certain recent president (not the current occupant) who was also elected because of identity politics, and worshipped because of it. He did close to nothing for those of his color, and very little for the rest of us too, but hey, his color made him special. And I say this from the left, not from the right.
Steve (New York)
She doomed herself with that blatantly condescending visit to the Senate in the fall of 2017 when her basic message was that the old men there didn't and couldn't understand Facebook and so her obnoxiously cheerful self was needed to set them straight. The deep disrespect for democratically-elected officials turned up the heat on her in ways that are becoming evident now. And her media tour that week in Washington made it worse day by day.
JEG (Munich, Germany)
Jennifer Senior follows a typical path of too many women. Yes, they acknowledge, we argued that women in positions of power would act more ethically, transparently, and collegially than men. Yet when the reality shows women acting unethically, without candor, and viciously toward colleagues on a grand scale, they argue it is no matter because it was always unreasonable to expect women to act differently once they were in leadership positions. Indeed, they will argue that men in similar situations go entirely unpunished or un-chastened. But that suggestion is false as well, many male executives have faced termination for their failings including the heads of BP, Volkswagen, and Uber, among other examples this decade. Meanwhile. Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, who failed in many ways as leader of Yahoo!, are still defended by women like Ms. Senior, albeit with new arguments. If the purpose of feminism is to defend women engaged in appalling behavior because it is alleged “men do it,” it is a movement that has really come to an ignominious end.
Ace J (Portland)
Women are not perfect, so to an end with feminism? Shall we head back, then, to a world without contraception, where women are consigned endlessly to reproduction, childrearing, and the domestic sphere? No. Women are not perfect. Feminism: radical notion that women are people. Eligible for same tasks, and failings, as all people.
Richard Meyer (Naples, Fl)
Ms Sandberg was supposed to be “the adult in the room” and bring good business practices to Facebook. She has failed spectacularly. If Zuckerberg was a good leader he would have fired her long ago but both Sandberg and Zuckerberg have continually given the middle finger to the public and congressional leaders who want Facebook to be more responsible. Ms Sandberg has demonstrated again and again that her only interest has been solidifying her personal brand while her $14 million Valley house is being built. This is not male vs female, it’s competence vs incompetence. Facebook won’t pay a price until leaders in the business community say enough is enough and pull ads which is how the media site makes it money. Such impudence should not be rewarded as business as usual.
Miriam Warner (San Rafael)
@Richard Meyer Don't hold your breath. Google (and undoubtedly FB) work with the largest corporations in the world teaching them to market on social media, selling us to the highest bidder so we will consume more, not less. These companies fly groups of executives in (internationally as well) for week long training programs... The person running the program at Google has the heart and purity of a saint (genuinely) while selling us down the river without any apparent compunctions for the amazing lifestyle he has, and yes, time to write popular books. A much more compelling and complex figure than Sandberg.
Ragz (Austin, TX)
Its become fun to use diversity of thought and persepective and leadership style as an excuse to hire or promote female leadership. And yet when they behave no less corrupt as their male counterparts the comeback your article has is - was it realistic to expect otherwise? No one can win that argument. Hire for inclusion and diversity but dont isolate for corruption and being part of the herd. Amazing.
Steve S (Minnesota)
Corporations are not democracies, so why should we expect any of their leaders, men or women, that profit within an authoritarian/oligarchical system to respect democracy and put country before company?
Benjamin Teral (San Francisco, CA)
"Why do we assume female leaders are inherently gentler and less egomaniacal?" My experience is that successful female leaders are as tough and unempathetic as their male counterparts, but are much less likely to be blatantly narcissistic, or arbitrarily mean-spirited.
Dotconnector (New York)
The simple fact is that Sheryl Sandberg has been chief operating officer of Facebook for the last 10 years but, until just recently, has managed to elude any accountability whatsoever despite blunder after blunder, breach after breach, cover-up after cover-up. Ms. Sandberg's meticulous branding has served as the equivalent of the deflector shield on the Death Star from "Star Wars," creating an inexplicable double standard. What other executive, female or male, billionaire or not, would have gotten away for so long with so much negligence/incompetence that has led to serious harm to so many multitudes of people (while being rewarded with pay of $25 million or more a year)? In fact, she's still getting away with it, since a convenient set of scapegoat underlings is routinely thrown overboard, and she's given a benefit of the doubt that she hasn't earned. To make things even worse, our hapless Congress, embarrassingly, continues to treat her with kid gloves and accept her disingenuous sweet talk at face value. Accountability for Teflon Sheryl? Sorry, it's just not part of Facebook's business model. Chief *operating* officer indeed.
Perry’s (Princeton)
Cut Sheryl some slack. Human nature is human nature and should be viewed as gender-less. Human nature is first and foremost about self-preservation. Sheryl’s story is not about the inherent purity of feminism being degraded by exogenous negative forces. Sheryl’s lifetime of choices and judgments have been shaped by the pressures and the generally corrupting nature of power. Few are immune. Resist reductionist thinking of good vs. evil. Don’t demand feminist heroines to be better humans than their male counterparts. For how many of us possess the self-sacrificing gene to run in and up the stairs of a burning skyscraper in an attempt to save the lives of those we don’t know.
Clara Rose (Yes)
So many people are unaware of how most Americans struggle everyday ... are still clueless as to the sheer fact that most women simply are actually dealing everyday . . . to get through the day. They are raising children, getting through the work day and trying to make it through their day and to make a difference. The fabulous luxury of of getting to have an opinion on the world stage is hilarious and precious. To every mom and grandma out there... you are the real deal. Thank you.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
We have been living with rhetoric, writing, oratory, posturing and human deviousness in pursuit of wealth, sex, and power for millennia. We have many examples of people being dishonest in order to trick others into giving them what they want only to eventually show their inabilities to handle what they gained by stealth. This woman presented an appealing image, which she cultivated and half of the population probably imagined about themselves at some point in their lives. But like most people who present such appearances, most of it was made up. This woman achieved what she wanted without any purpose but wealth and power. But there is no reason to consider her anything more than someone who fell into incredible luck and who misrepresented it as genius.
“a woman who, according to a recent story in The Times, worked to minimize findings that the Russians had taken up residence on Facebook in 2016 in order to sow disinformation in the run-up to the American presidential election”. This means that dollars were more important than relating to a problem no one at the top of Facebook was willing to face. This penny wise pound foolish approach shows that Sandberg and Zuckerberg were unable to make major decisions about Facebook’s future while passing the buck on Russian intrusion in their business product. This was Cowardly behavior and it underlines the major flaw in their stewardship of Facebook, dealing with a difficult problem that demanded their involvement. They should be replaced.
RAC (auburn me)
The number of people who took Sandberg's Lean In schtick at face value must be quite low, maybe as low as the number of people outside of her family and friends who concerned themselves with her public grieving. Only Good News? That's when Facebook's stock price drops and people leave the platform. Time's up.
Hayden (Texas)
Ms. Sandberg is a businesswoman, not a feminist. She shapes her environment and the public’s perception of her to gain influence and advance her interests. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Nancy B (Philadelphia)
@Hayden Yes but the offense is that Sandberg and the roster of corporations who promoted her book tried to advance their interests under the banner of feminism. To borrow their vocabulary, they tried to co-opt the "brand" of feminism for anti-feminist purposes.
Anna Kavan (Colorado)
@Nancy B, I think the feminist label was put on her, and she reshaped it to drive her brand forward.
Chris (SW PA)
Corporate executives are like movie actors. Everyone tells them they are great, because the world is filled with people who want to follow a cult leader. They have no real skills but still believe all the great stuff that is said about them. They are egotists who become delusional about their own infallibility. Sandberg is no bigger fake than the majority of celebrities or corporate executives. And the idea that a woman would somehow be different in one of these positions is laughable. The idea that the "tech" companies are somehow different from say Exxon or GM is also a bit absurd.
Gwen Vilen (Minnesota)
I think it is unrealistic to expect women who acquire power to be able to resist the pitfalls of power: image vs. authenticity, celebrity vs. character, ends vs means, blameless vs accountability, deceit vs. candor,, arrogance vs. modesty, anymore than it is to expect men to. But just as with men, it is heartbreaking when they fall from grace. People look to those in power for hope. They hope their leadership is based on caring about their interests and on the interests of their country and the world. Sandburg's reputation has nosedived overnight - and deservedly so. She has been exposed as a phony, and is a warning that women can be seduced by power the same as any man.
The Sanity Cruzer (Santa Cruz, CA)
@Gwen Vilen The issue here is, in my opinion, that Sandberg sold a vision of someone who she is not. Also, it is not as if Zuckerberg supports Sandberg in being a person who makes this a better world into which to live by setting the bar high. Just the opposite!
shiningstars122 (CT)
@Gwen Vilen the only reason we all believe it is unrealistic is that people in power, predominately men, want us to believe that. I do believe that if women chose to lead like that truly wanted we would all move forward.
P Wilkinson (Guadalajara, MX)
@Gwen Vilen She was born with power and acquired more through ruthless self interest. Anybody who looks to company leaders esp. these mega influential media companies is hopelessly naive and dumb.
Gordon Alderink (Grand Rapids, MI)
I've seen this many many times. That is, women, who demonstrate the kind of different character (from ambitious men) we would like to see in places of power, evolve, over time, an ethos that is no different. My cynicism concludes that power corrupts. When might we see women who can actually transform power over?
SMKNC (Charlotte, NC)
It's seems to me (male) that being a feminist and a hard nosed executive is not necessarily mutually exclusive. Sandberg is obviously smart and driven. Half of my MBA class at an Ivy institution were women with similar traits. Those seem to be characteristics we'd like to see more of in young women. What was more puzzling to me was that she, perhaps more than others, hasn't appeared to stand up more in opposition to Trump. You say "Perhaps because she knows who runs Washington these days, and is therefore proceeding with caution." Of course, with the exception of Trump's advisory council which walked out after Charlottesville, we've seen little overt corporate leadership opposition to this adminstration. While she comes from privilege, she's worked hard and suffered intense personal loss. However, I thought she might be one of a few to speak up in light of his misogyny, if nothing else. Party over country. Tribe over community. Workplace affiliation over self? Not so much unexpected as disappointing.
Schrodinger (Northern California)
I had to laugh when I reached the end of this piece and found out that Ms Senior ultimately Blames The Man for Facebook's problems. I have a different view. Zuckerberg is a talented programmer who has never been very good in TV interviews. He did manage to keep the servers running, unlike some of his competitors. Sandberg was brought in to help navigate the social and political issues that Facebook has. Facebook's problems are in areas that should be Sandberg's area of expertise. As soon as she heard that Russians were trying to use Facebook to influence an American election, she should have realized that the company was in big political trouble. It seems that Sandberg isn't very good at her job. Part of the problem is that she is more interested in building her own brand than in working for Facebook. Where does she find the time to write two books dedicated to building her personal brand?
Don P. (New Hampshire)
Sheryl Sandberg has privilege and the real question is how will she use that special privilege to help improve the corporate culture for women overall? Whether she is a feminist icon or just a highly skilled top business executive or both is something others can debate endlessly. Ms Sandberg is at the pinnacle of the corporate ladder in an industry that has little regulation or oversight and now faces a question of loyalty and credibility with its customers. So, now is the time that Ms Sandberg must choose to be the consumers populist leader or just become another greedy corporate CEO that always put profit before its customers and employees.
Jacques (The Netherlands)
I am not sure such an article as this would ever be written about a male CEO? With this I am not implying that the points raised are not worthy of debate, I just feel that male CEO's should be subjected to similar scrutiny - i.e. being judged on issues beyond their business performance - it might do them some good (for context, I am a male CEO). Outside of the above, I think the main problem is that in the US, CEO's are seen as either all-powerful heros or the evilest of villains. Consequently, far too much power, influence, whatever you want to call it, are ascribed to CEO's. A CEO can and often does set the tone at the top but they are utterly useless without a high quality team around them. A team, which is complimentary and where required compensates for the weaknesses of the CEO. In short the expectations of Sheryl Sandberg - regardless of whether or not she encouraged such expectations - or for that matter any other CEO are simply totally unrealistic and hence they are bound to fall off the cliff edge somewhere along the line. CEO's are human with all that entails, stop making them into something they are not and never will be i.e. super-human. A side benefit may also be that some of the more grotesque side effects of inflated egos are also kept in check.
Paul Eckert (Switzerland)
Totally agree with you. The main hiccup though, is that these all-to-human CEO’s pretend (and are) to be remunerated as super humans, the latest case in point being Carlos Ghosn. Now, one might ask, why is Japanese society able to maintain some kind of reasonableness between the lowest end of the pay scale and the highest? And why western societies, especially the american society, seem unable and unwilling to do so?
Maf (Australia)
She is an executive that needs to do her job well and but in her case is also trying to do good too. Just because she is a feminist doesn’t mean she doesn’t put her firms interests foreword. Just because she is a feminist doesn’t mean she should be held to higher standards as others.
Bruce Esrig (Northern NJ)
Alas, I agree that "bring us closer together" is not an unachievable ideal. It is sleight of hand, a way of acknowledging what is happening while asking us to look elsewhere.
Jeneva (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Thank you for your insightful, balanced portrayal of a woman trapped within a dark, soul-suffocating system who plays both sides of the game, very well, up until now. There is merit in the Lead In, self-help vehicle, one you explore the useful and pragmatic offerings on the website. But you have to, after reading her book, push through the skepticism to take advantage of the feminists who offer realistic advice for women who come up against that same stultifying system. She's an archetype now, our modern Hermes who, this time, flew too close to the sun. I am curious to witness what will unfold in our hero's journey. Perhaps, like Trump and too many of his cronies, she'll rise like a Phoenix to become our President indeed! Jennifer, let's bet! In a decade of politically shrewd dance moves she could save the nation, as we'll surely need another larger than life fantasy on which to pin our hopes!
Angela (Los Angeles, California)
What exactly is the point of this column? Ms. Senior is all over the landscape about Ms. Sandberg and her actions -- at times condemnatory of Sandberg's calculation, at others defending her as being held to a different standard than male executives. Where everyone has gone wrong with Ms. Sandberg was to have assumed, without much evidence, that she is a true feminist. In my long experience in the business world, women who rise to the top are not true feminists, but know how to use that label for their own self-aggrandizement. Let's remember who runs all these corporations -- men. They only promote the type of women who they approve of and/or can control.
stan continople (brooklyn)
As some regular commenters here love to point out, the job of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders. They state this however as if it's a law of nature and not just of unbridled capitalism. Nobody rises to a level of power in a publicly traded American corporation who isn't ethically compromised. If they didn't start out that way, by the time they reached the summit, they were damaged goods. Remember that golden oldie "Don't be Evil"?
Stewart (France)
@stan continople Stan you hit the mail on the head. I have long felt that only POWER and Money count in America. Morals, democracy, ethics and the environment only count when they get you to the top. There is no question that financial success is important but it matters how it is achieved- with a company philosophy that embodies ethics, common decency,the environment and a belief in not just shareholders but also all the employées who contribue to the attainment of its succèss.
Michael B. English (Crockett, CA)
I find it telling that the the "strategic thinkers" mentioned in this article are known primarily for making bad decisions when it mattered the most. The problem with Sandberg is not that she is a pioneering woman in a male-dominated industry. It is that she is a pioneering woman in a male-dominated industry who made a terrible decision that harmed her company and her country. And yes, absolutely we have the right to expect better conduct from her and from every other executive. The fact that we are not getting it is why we are so angry about it.
Dundeemundee (Eaglewood)
Why do "Feminist Icons" have to be "inspirational." I can think of very few men who are inspirational, I don't understand why it should be different for women. As I see it, with Sandburg people seem to have been expecting to find a superhero and were confronted by the human underneath. That's life.
J Hunter (MN)
Gripping article with no real solutions. Women's professional lives will be massively difficult, especially at the top, for several more generations. At some point full transparency will shine on social media and we'll be able to compare it quite closely to the cigarette industry, or the NFL. All habits we won't kick.
Caledonia (Massachusetts)
Leaning In.. to maximize shareholder value, well, never quite made sense to me.
Elle (USA)
The EU General Data Protection Regulation is being fought tooth and nail by Facebook and Google top legal guns. Follow the money. It's in the access to our data. A US GDPR is long overdue. Amazon qualifies for the shortlist.
NYer (New York)
The whole gospel of “leaning in,” which was jumped on with unseemly enthusiasm by the corporate world, including the big banks such as JPMorgan (where I was a Managing Director at the time) is, to my mind, one of the WORST things that could have happened to women in the workplace. We are ALREADY working all kinds of hours, asking for more responsibility, leading teams and departments, competing with all we have with men, AND running our lives outside of work with a similar degree of attention to detail, all while CONTINUOUSLY having to prove everyday that we are as good as, if not usually better than, the men around us - and having to deal with comments and critiques about “style” when we focus on producing results, speak up, lead with facts instead of feelings, etc. And now Ms. Sandberg shows up and tells us we’re not doing ENOUGH to put ourselves forward, not being aggressive enough, not asking for enough responsibility?!? Of course the big banks (and other firms) are going to jump on it - we’re already working 12-14 hour days, let’s tell us it’s OUR fault we’re not yet running the business, or getting promoted, or being paid more, so they can get us to work 16-18 hour days! What if I don’t WANT to make that trade? What if I don’t have an army of people supporting me? What if my idea of parenting isn’t bringing my three young kids (each with their own nanny) to the office on Sundays and putting them in front of the TV while I work (which someone senior at JPM used to do)?
HLP (Chicago, IL)
Amen! I read “Lean In” with book club and resented the mantra. The book coupled with my personal work experiences conjured more interest in “tapping out” than leaning in. Thank God I’m in a better work situation now and seem to be navigating towards upward movement in a manner that it comfortable and authentic for me.
Ambroisine (New York)
@NYer. As I recall, after the death of her husband, Ms. Sandberg showed contrition for a bit. She confessed that it was all too easy for her to "lean in" because her life was well-equipped with nannies and money. Once widowed, she kinda, sort of, apologized to the many who are not so well "bracketed." So there's a speck of humanity there after all. Let's see if the awful behavior she indulged in at Facebook ignites her decency. Democracy is too great a prize to be sacrificed for filthy lucre.
Ace J (Portland)
Amen. I was a mom with young kids when “Lean in” came out. Our business had just been taken over by a woman, who was hugely accomplished as well as having raised adult children with a very supportive family. She was vocal about women being “fully committed” to their careers. We had lost a few staff and overtime kept me regularly working 50% more than my contract called for: 50 hours instead of 35, I told my longtime mentor and boss (also a woman: a mom of older kids who *was* ready to lean in) that my preschooler and toddler needed me to honor my commitments at home. She suggested I get a second nanny. I quit. That book was so damaging. She presented it, and people bought it, as *the* way.
Donald Seekins (Waipahu HI)
Let's not forget that as a top executive at Facebook, Sandberg was responsible in large part for allowing anti-Muslim extremists in Burma to turn the social media site into a platform for hate. If Facebook did not exist, many Rohingyas killed by the Burmese army or anti-Muslim mobs might still be alive today.
Kathy B (Salt Lake City)
@Donald Seekins You can’t blame Facebook for genocide. It is the newest way of carrying it out, but sadly, it would have happened some other way without it, as it happened so many times in the past.
Socrates (Downtown Verona. NJ)
Sheryl Sandberg is a fake, phony and a fraud, a veritable hologram who represents the worst in plastic American phoniness, someone who has a life 'strategy', but no understanding of the meaning of life. A striving billionaire who was too busy being ambitiou$ to learn the basics about patriotism, love of country and developing some ethics. May she never be heard from again.
Michael B. English (Crockett, CA)
@Socrates Too much Salinger is unhealthy after 5 PM. Give details, please.
Tim Kane (Mesa, Az)
@Socrates: I saw a video piece where someone asked Zuckerberg what kind of company Facebook was, and he replied “we’re a technology company.” But what I heard was: “We didn’t take much in the way of humanities classes and so we don’t have much of a moral compass of which to speak of.” I think Sandberg might be a poster child of all that is wrong with the Facebook and related affairs. She wants to be a lion of women’s issues, meanwhile social scientist are telling us that suicide rates among teenage girls is up 70% and they attribute it to social media, Facebook in particular.
Mimi (Baltimore, MD)
@Socrates That sounds like Donald Trump!!! Do you really think she's as bad as he is - or as bad as 95% of the men at the top of business and politics? (I suspect Sandberg was heading into politics as her next goal.)
Janine (Minnesota)
When the Lean In book came out, my book group read it. I was a stay at home mom, seven years in. I just kept thinking how my leaning in didn't count. I left a well paying, upwardly mobile job. Since, I had worked more hours, between taking care of my kids and leaning into volunteering at a new charter school they attended, neither of which payed a cent. I leaned in for NO MONEY. Sandberg leaned into money like so many (men) before her. She is now facing the consequences of putting money before everything else. Eureka, all mothers have an instinct to lean in... they just do it differently and don't feel the need to write a book about it.
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
@Janine Wise words. We have a dumb and discriminatory public discourse (and payment system) about who does what work to create the wealth (and value!) in our lives. That's the topic we need to "lean in" towards, not how we can "monetize" ourselves individually at the expense of all else. So thanks for raising the issue here, and for doing what you do and have done.
sheela (Massachusetts)
@Janine Mothers do the leaning in that's not taken note of by the people who can smooth the way for corporate ambitions. We have yet to see the icons who prioritize a mother's version of leaning in--giving love, food, shelter, comfort.
Madre (NYC)
@Janine This might be news to you - but working professional women ALSO do all the chores and child caring as you do. We lean in at home and we lean in in the world. Period.
Woman (America)
People who think their way of thinking, working, living, seem suspect. They assume what has worked for them will work for everyone—which is seldom true. So she wrote about what worked for her at work, or what worked for her as a widow. But her experiences and strategies are hers, not mine—because she has different goals.
Steph (Oakland)
Well I don’t think you can blame Facebook for the fall of democracy. Decent paying jobs might have helped. The idea of leaning in seems a bit unrealistic. Sometimes just getting out of bed is leaning in for me. Unvarnished advice about dealing with work politics is probably a good idea. It’s Not feminism, but I’ve pretty much given up on feminism as a middle aged woman who has to work, cook, clean and take care of my children.
@Steph I think it's too early to conclude that Facebook can't be blamed... at least in part... for what has happened to our country since the lead-up to the 2016 election. I'm not ready to talk about Sandberg strictly in terms of feminism. I'm still stuck on her apparent lack of patriotism. Many of us are still learning about how we were manipulated from behind the scenes by players like Facebook and it's a sick feeling.
Woman (America)
Sometimes flossing is about all the leaning in I can handle.
Donald Seekins (Waipahu HI)
Twenty-first century America is a country whose most prominent characteristic is not democracy or freedom, but predatory capitalism. It is natural that predatory capitalism, as the black hole at the heart of our society, would bend and contort feminism to serve its own interests (or rather the interests of the elite corporate class). In nations with gentler, more humane societies, a person like Sandberg might be considered a psychopath. It is very likely that Sandberg will run for President some day. That is NOT good news!
D (PA)
@Donald Seekins If Sandberg is as smart as she thinks she is, she realized any chance to run for president evaporated as soon as that recent Times article went live. This Hillary-supporting feminist, who walked away from a high profile and high paying career so that she could volunteer and her family could lead a saner life, couldn’t be happier about it. By proscribing all women’s obligations to her own vision of feminism, Sandberg’s is the most toxic voice of all. Feminism is about equality, yes, but also about choice.
jrinsc (South Carolina)
The Myth: Facebook's goal is to use technology to "bring us closer together." The Reality: Facebook's goal is to use technology to monetize our personal information in as many ways as they can get away with, even if that means fostering international armed conflict or destabilizing democracy. The Myth: Ms. Sandberg is a tough, smart businesswoman who is also genial and nice - the happy, pleasant counterpart to Mr. Zuckerberg's less-than-genial persona. The Reality: Ms. Sandberg is a tough, smart businesswoman who crafted her pleasant public image. Ms. Senior asks "Why do we assume female leaders are inherently gentler and less egomaniacal?" In Ms. Sandberg's case, it's because she wanted us to see her that way in order to cynically exploit feminist aspirations for her personal and corporate gain.
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
@jrinsc Facebook was started to rate girls on their looks- at Harvard.
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
@jrinsc Who is "we"?
JC (Brooklyn)
Nah, she was never a feminist icon in my house. I never understood what it means to lean in. I know what it could mean to women to have affordable, universal daycare, flexible work hours, maternity/paternity leave, affordable health care, retirement security. Sheryl was not espousing any of that. She is the typical American business person who only knows how to buy cheap, sell dear.
Sarah Strohmeyer (Vermont)
@JC I was about to post the same and then saw yours. Amen. Feminism is about prioritizing the values that elevate common humanity and compassion, not first and foremost making more $$$$ and stepping on the other guy to do so.
Dart (Asia)
Yes, she can't, but in one area these types almost always enrich themselves one way or another - they are the Entitled Class.
Joe B. (Center City)
A fraud exposed. She don’t lie to good.
Keith (Folsom California)
Facebook is just another corporation that puts money before everything else. Sandberg's book was always just a P.R. stunt. You know that because of how much they helped Putin ruin America, while all the way crying to the bank.
pierre (san fran)
he level of groundless ad-hominem attacks in this opinion is mind boggling.
Marty (Indianapolis IN)
@pierre They're not ad hominem attacks when her behavior is the focus of the article.
Imperato (NYC)
@pierre groundless? You have got to be joking.
Dart (Asia)
@pierre So's she.
NDJ (Arizona)
Women wouldn’t have any chance at decent jobs in 2018 if it weren’t for feminists.
Nadine (NYC)
@NDJ I don't agree that this happened suddenly in 2018 by today's feminists. It has been a gradual shift and unions and universities played a big role for example allowing returning moms to finish their degrees. However the broad spectrum of job opportunities have opened up and the ladder has a fewer rungs. One rung is added for women whenever family time is used. Another rung is removed with the me too movement. I still gush at seeing women in service being appointed as generals and fighter pilots or poor ex-bartenders with a knack for passionate oratory being elected to congress.
RS (Seattle)
@NDJ Men used to have all the control and make all the rules, so therefore it could have only been men who changed the rules and culture to accept women. WWII had a lot to do with it as well. Feminists? Not so much.
Sean Cunningham (San Francisco, CA)
Didn’t Facebook used to be a thing?
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
@Sean Cunningham Yeah, kinda like myspace and AOL.
dlb (washington, d.c.)
Sandberg is not the feminist we thought she was. Give me the notorious RBG any day over Sandberg.
Bertie (NYC)
@dlb yes we need a million more RBG, she is the real superstar we are proud of!
Margo Channing (NYC)
@dlb Whoever thought she was a feminist? She has a brother who founded a company and he hired her.
C.B. Evans (Middle-earth)
@dlb I happen to think the "notorious" RBG, now busily being lionized by so many, also put her own self-interest ahead of that of the nation when she insisted, in her 80s, that she was so important that she could not possibly consider stepping down from the U.S. Supreme Court when a Democratic administration would have had a chance to fill her seat. To be sure, I would make the same criticism of a man who did the same. In my book, RBG is a striver no less than Sandberg. Chances are good that the "notorious" RBG will be the conduit to another SCOTUS appointment for the current occupant of the White House, all because of her self-centeredness.
Allen Drachir (Fullerton, CA)
“Relentlessly pleasant” is exactly how Sandberg has been in her dealings with Congress. I've never seen Sandberg as "relentlessly pleasant" in any of her public appearances. Rather, she is relentlessly plastic, and always preprogrammed.
Dart (Asia)
@Allen Drachir Yup, the completely corporate type made of plastics.
Victor (Pennsylvania)
@Allen Drachir This is true. I saw her by coincidence on several talk shows in a span of two days. She was promoting Plan B, her book. On each show she repeated herself word for word. Paragraph after paragraph. The word that came to mind as I listened with increasing distaste was: inhuman.
Paul (Trantor)
@Allen Drachir Thank you for "relentlessly plastic".
jrinsc (South Carolina)
"Why do we assume female leaders are inherently gentler and less egomaniacal?" Of course, we shouldn't. But the issue here is that Facebook - and Ms. Sandberg herself - presented her image as a warm, friendly counterpart to Mr. Zuckerberg's less-than-genial personality. She wanted to be seen as gentler and less egomaniacal. We now know that Facebook's happy slogan of "bringing us closer together" belied a greedy, unethical corporate culture in which Ms. Sandberg was fully complicit. Facebook is as powerful as many governments, and like politicians in government, the public policies they enact matter much more than whether the policy makers are nice. Ms. Sandberg may well be a "relentlessly pleasant" person. But as Ms. Senior states, she put her "corporate interests - and her own image - ahead of the needs of democracy." As we learn more about Facebook's duplicity, Ms. Sandberg's image seems like a carefully crafted and cynical deception.
Dart (Asia)
@jrinsc Cynic al deception? As in most corporate types?
Henry Stites (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Facebook has broke our democracy by selling nearly every American's personal data to anyone that wants to buy it. Putin has it. Xi has it. The Israelis have it. They've all weaponized it in destructively creative ways, and turned it against us. Miss Sandberg is the (x) to Mr. Zuckerberg's (y). It all equals a scandal of vast proportions.
Emily J Hancock (Geneva, IL)
@Henry Stites it's a mystery to me that anyone gives Facebook their data or uses any of their ridiculous apps. I see people that have their birthdates, primary email, addresses, and phone numbers on Facebook. We do it to ourselves. Hacked once by Amazon's store your credit card and you learn to keep as much private as possible. Give them nothing or give them something made up.
Henry Stites (Scottsdale, Arizona)
@Emily J Hancock Funny you say that. I've had several friends change their names on Facebook. Doesn't sound so crazy after I read your response. In fact, it makes sense in the world we live in!
AWW (East of the Mississippi)
To be strategic and smart is to be applauded: what we see with Ms. Sandberg is a waste of potential. She's taken her platform and trashed it along with our country. She's no worse than the boys, but she's shown us that women with power don't necessarily behave better than boys. Terribly sad and uninspiring for future women leaders. Go away Ms. Sandberg and take Mark with you ~ we need leaders with guts and ethics.
Mark Macauley (Chicago)
Well said...
SteveRR (CA)
Nothing like the feeding frenzy of liberal feminists consuming their own. Where to start - Lean In is about how women can be successful in business - should they choose to pursue that path - it is not a handbook on how to be a feminist. Sandberg is COO of a $400 billion company - only a feminist not-for-profit blogger or podcaster would question why she plays hardball for a living. She is s feminist icon because she is actually successful at something that is hard and rare - she is not an influencer (Kardashian) - she is not a rapper (pick your poison) - she is not an actress - she actually has a real technical degree and has been successful in a technical industry - how rare is that? This too will pass - but I think she is the perfect feminist icon - she is unabashedly successful - unabashedly tough - and unabashedly anchored in the real world of business.
Independent (the South)
@SteveRR I agree she is "unabashedly successful - unabashedly tough - and unabashedly anchored in the real world of business." But I don't admire the characteristic of money over morals in either man or woman. No icon there for me. Successful yes, but no icon. Zuckerberg either.
Chris (SW PA)
@SteveRR She is a traitor.
SteveRR (CA)
@Independent Thanks for taking the time to reply. Once again - everyone can have their own standards - that is called relativism - it is often irrational. That does not preclude one interpretation being right - that is called the real world. Women should not have to be 'nice' to be considered feminists or icons
TJ (Raleigh, NC)
This reads like gossip column. I admit that I have not read Lean In, nor have been a fan of Sandberg style feminism. However, if she has been put on a pedestal, it was done by the audience. She just did whatever task she was assigned with, really well. I still admire her for a job well done.
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
@TJ Yeah, sure. Because the last thing that Facebook is about is being aware of, and curating, the image of yourself that gets presented to the world.
Skier (Alta UT)
Is she and zuckerberg guilty of espionage or at least abetting it?
cb (IL)
The idea of feminism was, originally, to dismantle the system that made women - and so many other non-white peoples around the world - subservient to male, white, monied interests, rather than to encourage a few alpha females like Sandberg to join that system and profit from it.
V.B. Zarr (Erewhon)
@cb Yeah, I remember that too. The last trick up the sleeves of that minority of monied interests is co-opting enough of the rest of us to bolster their powers, which is another cautionary prediction the old school feminists so presciently made.
Blunt (NY)
Thank you for this thoughtful essay. I see the problem as lionizing people without really thinking about them thoroughly. Sandberg was the Class Day speaker in my daughters graduation in 2014. From the beginning note to the coda of her speech, anyone who could not see through her totally fake yet perfectly crafted pile of nonsense had it coming to them. Let’s pick our icons better next time. Sandberg is no feminist, she is a self-serving careerist of best quality. It did not take the latest abuse of gullibility of human nature to come to this conclusion. Zuckerberg and Sandberg are the two sides of the same contraband coin.
rtj (Massachusetts)
@Blunt Excellent. I was going to comment, but you said it much better than i could have. I have no idea who this "we" and "our" is that the author is speaking of.
EricR (Tucson)
@Blunt: While I have to agree with Ms. Senior that "The blame here ultimately lies with Mark Zuckerberg", you are 100% right that Sandberg is the "B" side of a double faced coin. I see M.Z. as emotionally stunted and angry as Trump himself, and while marginally smarter, not much more mature. A large part of Facebook for him is revenge, and Sandberg caters to his weaknesses and flaws.
Mimi (Baltimore, MD)
@Blunt Would you say the same about any man who had the same trajectory she did - a "self-serving careerist of best quality?"
Sri Sambamurthy (Short Hills NJ)
Why does the author offer so much apology for Sandberg? And why do all these writers always come to their self serving conclusion that the Russian interference helped Trump win election?
Bascom Hill (Bay Area)
Putin’s team delivered content on FB to over 150 million Americans during the 2016 campaign. That content was to promote one candidate. Who? The guy that hired Steve Brannon.
RS (Seattle)
@Sri Sambamurthy Every single US intelligence agency reached that conclusion. Why would you expect a writer to disagree with that?
Independent (the South)
@Sri Sambamurthy You ask, "why writers always come to their self serving conclusion that the Russian interference helped Trump win election?" Because these agencies have said so: 1. Central Intelligence Agency 2. Office of the Director of National Intelligence 3. F.B.I. 4. National Security Agency 5. Justice Department 6. Department of Homeland Security 7. House Intelligence Committee 8. Senate Intelligence Committee
See also