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Sheryl Sandberg’s combined legacy at Meta


It didn’t take lengthy after Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008 for critics to say that she wasn’t offering sufficient “adult supervision” as the corporate confronted its first main privateness scandals.

In the previous a number of years, many have been fast to criticize Sandberg — lengthy thought to be the No. 2 particular person at Facebook, now often known as Meta — for the corporate’s many errors. Those embody all the things from permitting Russian bots to unfold propaganda forward of the 2016 US presidential election to its position within the January 6 rebel. But 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 will 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, finally, solely her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, had the ultimate authority to repair. You may even ask why she hadn’t resigned earlier, notably since Meta not too long ago 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 decision I didn’t come to lightly, but it’s been 14 years,” Sandberg instructed Bloomberg on Wednesday, who additionally joked that her place was “not the most manageable job anyone has ever had.”

Sandberg arguably had one of many hardest gigs within the tech trade, overseeing Facebook’s whole enterprise operations — its adverts enterprise and partnerships with different corporations, together with content material moderation, recruiting, and public relations. It was her lengthy record of duties on the firm that allowed Zuckerberg to give attention to what he favored finest: constructing merchandise.

“Sheryl architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company,” wrote Mark Zuckerberg in a public Facebook publish on Wednesday discussing Sandberg’s departure. “She deserves the credit for so much of what Meta is today.”

Sandberg is leaving Meta with a combined legacy: On the one hand, she helped flip Facebook into one of the crucial worthwhile corporations on the planet, leveraging her experience as a former Google advert government to assist Facebook determine how you can make cash — and plenty of it. Sandberg utilized Google’s mannequin of organizing the gross sales group into groups that targeted on attracting giant, medium, and small-sized advertisers (when she joined, Facebook’s solely advert accomplice was Microsoft). One 12 months into her tenure, Facebook turned a worthwhile firm for the primary time, and she or he continued to develop Facebook’s adverts that focused customers based mostly on their social exercise.

As one of many few feminine top-tier tech executives in all the trade, Sandberg was additionally a task mannequin to many ladies inside and outdoors the corporate. In 2013, she printed 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 girls who met to implement the concepts in Sandberg’s e-book. Sandberg’s model of company feminism additionally attracted some critics who considered it as putting an excessive amount of stress 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. Still, the quick reception of Sandberg’s e-book was largely optimistic: Her e-book offered over 4 million copies and was a New York Times bestseller for over a 12 months.

Over the years, nevertheless, Facebook 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 Facebook 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 group for the fallout, calling the media response “hysteria,” in line with the Wall Street Journal, and employed Clegg round that point. Sandberg additionally publicly defended and apologized for Facebook’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 unfavorable press about Facebook with aggressive lobbying ways. Under her management, Facebook 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 Color 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 stress the Daily Mail to cease reporting about her then-boyfriend, former Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, in line with reporting by the Wall Street Journal. A spokesperson for Meta instructed Recode that the allegations within the Journal article have been “absolutely not” a motive for Sandberg’s departure, and that Meta regarded 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 Facebook, it won’t come as a shock to trade 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. (Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg keep that they continue to be very shut, and Meta has publicly denied any rift of their relationship.)

“Early on, Sheryl was one of the only COOs in the world where if someone said, ‘We’re sending her instead of Mark,’ folks were perfectly fine with that,” stated Katie Harbath, a former director of public coverage at Meta who labored with Sandberg. “It was almost like having co-CEOs.”

As cracks began to indicate in Sandberg’s relationship with Zuckerberg in the course of the Trump administration, the CEO reportedly turned extra concerned in coverage choices. He determined, as an illustration, that Facebook ought to take a extra hands-off method in moderating political speech, a transfer that angered a few of Sandberg’s allies within the Democratic Party. Zuckerberg reportedly overruled Sandberg in 2019 by deciding to not take down a manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made it seem as if she have been slurring her phrases, in line with the New York Times.

In Harbath’s phrases, “Mark and Sheryl’s viewpoints of how various issues should be handled started to diverge more” at the moment.

Now that Sandberg is leaving, some trade insiders fear that, with out her, there received’t be anybody left to disagree with Zuckerberg on vital choices.

“Sheryl has had quite a run over those 14 years, from some really high highs to some incredible lows,” stated one former Facebook government who spoke on the situation of anonymity. “What’s interesting is who Mark has surrounded himself with at this point: His core leaders are all Mark loyalists and have been there forever.”

Some of the remaining leaders in Zuckerberg’s internal circle embody Javier Olivan, Facebook’s former chief progress 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 vp 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 high lieutenants are girls. Zuckerberg’s direct feminine studies 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 high government positions within the tech trade at giant, with some notable exceptions like Oracle CEO Safra Katz, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and Google CFO Ruth Porat.

The finish of her tenure at Facebook and Meta marks the top of one of the crucial notable trajectories within the tech trade. At one level, Sandberg was an almost unilaterally admired company chief who broke gender limitations within the tech trade, and was reportedly being thought-about for a task in Hilary Clinton’s presidential cupboard, if Clinton had been elected. Now, due to her difficult legacy and due to Meta’s controversial repute, it’s onerous to see Sandberg having a profession in politics in any respect. Sandberg might hunt down one other large enterprise position, however for now, she says she’s specializing in her household and philanthropic tasks.

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