It didn’t take lengthy after Sheryl Sandberg joined Fb in 2008 for critics to say that she wasn’t offering sufficient “grownup supervision” as the corporate confronted its first main privateness scandals.
Up to now a number of years, many have been fast to criticize Sandberg — lengthy considered the No. 2 particular person at Fb, now generally known as Meta — for the corporate’s many errors. These embody every thing from permitting Russian bots to unfold propaganda forward of the 2016 US presidential election to its position within the January 6 riot. However she additionally helped the corporate develop from a dorm room experiment to one of many greatest, most influential tech corporations on the planet.
After a 14-year run, Sandberg introduced on June 1 that she can be stepping down from her position as Meta’s COO. She’s going to hold her seat on the corporate’s board.
For these paying shut consideration, Sandberg’s departure has been a very long time coming. Her affect on the firm was reportedly waning and, at occasions, she was left publicly apologizing for issues that, in the end, solely her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, had the ultimate authority to repair. You would possibly even ask why she hadn’t resigned earlier, notably since Meta just lately promoted former UK politician Nick Clegg to president of worldwide affairs, which meant he took on the coverage duties previously below Sandberg’s umbrella.
“It’s a choice I didn’t come to evenly, nevertheless it’s been 14 years,” Sandberg instructed Bloomberg on Wednesday, who additionally joked that her place was “not essentially the most manageable job anybody has ever had.”
Sandberg arguably had one of many hardest gigs within the tech business, overseeing Fb’s total enterprise operations — its advertisements enterprise and partnerships with different corporations, together with content material moderation, recruiting, and public relations. It was her lengthy listing of duties on the firm that allowed Zuckerberg to give attention to what he favored greatest: constructing merchandise.
“Sheryl architected our advertisements enterprise, employed nice folks, cast our administration tradition, and taught me the right way to run an organization,” wrote Mark Zuckerberg in a public Fb put up on Wednesday discussing Sandberg’s departure. “She deserves the credit score for a lot of what Meta is in the present day.”
Sandberg is leaving Meta with a combined legacy: On the one hand, she helped flip Fb into some of the worthwhile corporations on this planet, leveraging her experience as a former Google advert government to assist Fb work out the right way to become profitable — and plenty of it. Sandberg utilized Google’s mannequin of organizing the gross sales group into groups that centered on attracting giant, medium, and small-sized advertisers (when she joined, Fb’s solely advert associate was Microsoft). One 12 months into her tenure, Fb turned a worthwhile firm for the primary time, and she or he continued to develop Fb’s advertisements that focused customers based mostly on their social exercise.
As one of many few feminine top-tier tech executives in the complete business, Sandberg was additionally a job mannequin to many ladies inside and outdoors the corporate. In 2013, she revealed Lean In, a e book encouraging girls to advocate for themselves at work and of their household lives, which impressed a social motion of tens of 1000’s of “Lean In” circles of ladies who met to implement the concepts in Sandberg’s e book. Sandberg’s model of company feminism additionally attracted some critics who seen it as putting an excessive amount of strain on particular person girls to enhance their private careers, with out giving as a lot consideration to addressing the structural points inflicting sexism within the first place. Nonetheless, the speedy reception of Sandberg’s e book was largely constructive: Her e book offered over 4 million copies and was a New York Instances bestseller for over a 12 months.
Through the years, nonetheless, Fb grew into an more and more political platform, and Sandberg began to draw public criticism for her position in managing the corporate’s insurance policies. First, there was the controversy surrounding Russia spreading misinformation on Fb within the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential election — an issue Zuckerberg had delegated to Sandberg to deal with — and shortly thereafter got here the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018. Zuckerberg reportedly blamed Sandberg and her workforce for the fallout, calling the media response “hysteria,” in response to the Wall Avenue Journal, and employed Clegg round that point. Sandberg additionally publicly defended and apologized for Fb’s position in being a platform used to facilitate genocide in Myanmar and in selling political extremism within the US.
At occasions, Sandberg responded to adverse press about Fb with aggressive lobbying techniques. Beneath her management, Fb employed Republican opposition analysis agency Definers in 2017 to probe the corporate’s critics, together with left-leaning billionaire George Soros and the civil rights group Shade of Change (she later apologized to the group for doing so).
Sandberg went on sabbatical this spring and, throughout that point, she was as soon as once more on the heart of controversy when she was accused of utilizing her affect to strain the Day by day Mail to cease reporting about her then-boyfriend, former Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, in response to reporting by the Wall Avenue Journal. A spokesperson for Meta instructed Recode that the allegations within the Journal article have been “completely not” a motive for Sandberg’s departure, and that Meta appeared into the matter internally, which is now “closed.”
Given all of the cumulative scandals Sandberg has needed to take care of whereas second in command at Fb, it won’t come as a shock to business insiders that Sandberg is lastly leaving Meta. For a number of years, it has appeared as if her affect was declining inside the corporate and notably with Zuckerberg, with whom she was beforehand identified for being shut. (Each Zuckerberg and Sandberg preserve that they continue to be very shut, and Meta has publicly denied any rift of their relationship.)
“Early on, Sheryl was one of many solely COOs on this planet the place if somebody stated, ‘We’re sending her as an alternative of Mark,’ of us have been completely advantageous with that,” stated Katie Harbath, a former director of public coverage at Meta who labored with Sandberg. “It was virtually like having co-CEOs.”
As cracks began to indicate in Sandberg’s relationship with Zuckerberg through the Trump administration, the CEO reportedly turned extra concerned in coverage choices. He determined, for example, that Fb ought to take a extra hands-off strategy in moderating political speech, a transfer that angered a few of Sandberg’s allies within the Democratic Get together. Zuckerberg reportedly overruled Sandberg in 2019 by deciding to not take down a manipulated video of Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made it seem as if she have been slurring her phrases, in response to the New York Instances.
In Harbath’s phrases, “Mark and Sheryl’s viewpoints of how numerous points needs to be dealt with began to diverge extra” at the moment.
Now that Sandberg is leaving, some business insiders fear that, with out her, there received’t be anybody left to disagree with Zuckerberg on vital choices.
“Sheryl has had fairly a run over these 14 years, from some actually excessive highs to some unbelievable lows,” stated one former Fb government who spoke on the situation of anonymity. “What’s attention-grabbing is who Mark has surrounded himself with at this level: His core leaders are all Mark loyalists and have been there without end.”
Among the remaining leaders in Zuckerberg’s internal circle embody Javier Olivan, Fb’s former chief development officer, who will likely be taking on Sandberg’s former place as Meta’s COO after her departure this fall. There’s additionally Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, Meta’s vice chairman of augmented and digital actuality, and Chris Cox, Meta’s chief product officer. And Clegg stays Meta’s president of worldwide affairs.
Notably, in Sandberg’s absence, an excellent smaller portion of Zuckerberg’s prime lieutenants are girls. Zuckerberg’s direct feminine stories embody the corporate’s chief authorized officer Jennifer Newstead and Lori Goler, Meta’s head of individuals.
Sandberg’s departure additionally means there are painfully few girls in prime government positions within the tech business at giant, with some notable exceptions like Oracle CEO Safra Katz, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and Google CFO Ruth Porat.
The top of her tenure at Fb and Meta marks the top of some of the notable trajectories within the tech business. At one level, Sandberg was an almost unilaterally admired company chief who broke gender boundaries within the tech business, and was reportedly being thought of for a job in Hilary Clinton’s presidential cupboard, if Clinton had been elected. Now, due to her sophisticated legacy and due to Meta’s controversial repute, it’s exhausting to see Sandberg having a profession in politics in any respect. Sandberg may search out one other huge enterprise position, however for now, she says she’s specializing in her household and philanthropic tasks.