Sandberg's Exit Comes Under Shadow of Company Probe

As Meta looks into alleged misuse of company resources, others debate her legacy
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2022 11:41 AM CDT
Sandberg's Exit Comes Under Shadow of Company Probe
In this Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

As the dust starts to settle on the Wednesday announcement of Sheryl Sandberg's farewell as chief operating officer of Facebook, now known as Meta, the inevitable "But why, really?" is being bandied about. Sandberg, 52, will remain on the company's board of directors and has said she's simply ready for the "next chapter" of her life, which will include getting married this summer and taking on more philanthropic initiatives. Per the Wall Street Journal's deep dive into her exit, that answer seems to be the sanitized version. The paper describes Sandberg as having become increasingly "disconnected from the mega-business she was instrumental in building," as well as the subject of a company probe. More on her departure:

  • Troubled times: Sources tell the Journal that Sandberg's relationship with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg had become more strained over the years, and that she'd started to become "burned out" and sick of being a "punching bag" for the company. "She sees herself as someone who has been targeted, been tarred as a woman executive in a way that would not happen to a man," one colleague tells the paper.
  • Investigation: Meta has been looking into Sandberg's activities, including alleged misuse of company resources to plan her wedding to consultant Tom Bernthal. That review is ongoing, per the Journal, which also notes two incidents in the past involving one of Sandberg's ex-boyfriends.
  • Meta's response: "None of this has anything to do with her personal decision to leave," a company spokesperson notes.
  • Zuckerberg's take: Recode has the full transcript of comments from the Meta CEO, as well as from Sandberg herself, during a virtual meeting Thursday with its 70,000-plus employees. "I think it's been really unusual for a partnership like this to last so long," Zuckerberg said of her 14-year tenure with the company. "A lot of her legacy is that she just created opportunities for millions of people around the world, and I think she deserves a lot of the credit for what Meta is today."

  • A more 'complicated legacy': That's how CNN Business frames what Sandberg is leaving in her wake, delving further into the criticism against her. One detractor tells the outlet Sandberg is "responsible for the wholesale destruction of privacy." And on the subject of online safety, another adds: "Sandberg had the power to take action for 14 years, yet consistently chose not to."
  • A blow to feminism? Nah: Writing for Gawker, Fran Hoepfner rolls her eyes at the takes deeming Sandberg's departure as the end of the "girlboss era." Hoepfner writes that that phenomenon was never even a thing. "The girlboss era, which didn't exist, was never earnest. It was always ironic and barbed: They had to put 'girl' in front of the word 'boss.'" Most of the women executives labeled as such "left their companies due to labor disputes or toxic leadership," Hoepfner notes. And it's pretty easy to remember the "girlbosses" like Sandberg "because there were so few of them" in the first place.
  • Lean In: The New York Times takes a closer look at Sandberg's bestselling book and how it's affected the women who've read it. For some, it served as a "bible" and inspiring "road map to corporate life." For others, it's been more problematic, especially on how the book's "individual-focused solutions" apply to the unique, more systemic challenges of low-income women and women of color.
  • Billionaire status: However her legacy or reputation ends up unfolding, Sandberg definitely isn't walking away empty-handed. CNBC reports she's bidding adieu to Meta after more than $1.7 billion in stock sales over the last decade—making her "one of the rare non-CEOs and non-founders to become a billionaire."
(More Sheryl Sandberg stories.)

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