The passing of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, marks the end of an era for women in tech

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For years, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg encourage women To climb the corporate ladder by promoting themselves in the workplace and asking for more help from their spouses at home.

Now, her exit from Facebook as one of America’s top female corporate executives marks a sign the end of the era In her brand of self-empowering feminism, she championed it as a critical tool to fight gender discrimination in the workplace.

Sandberg, 52, announced on Wednesday that she was step down from the position of COO After spending 14 years at a company, she helped transform from a social media site for college students into a massive digital advertising company. Sandberg, a self-proclaimed champion of women in the workplace, said she’s leaving Facebook to spend more time with her family and her charitable work.

“I like to think that the career I have and the careers of other female leaders inspire women to know that they can lead,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. “If you had grown up 100 years ago, you would not have known a single woman in business. If you were growing up today, you know some. I hope my daughters grow up in a world where there is so much.”

CEO Sheryl Sandberg is leaving Facebook

As one of the world’s richest self-made billionaires, Sandberg has been an icon in which a woman can reach the top male-dominated industry Like tech companies Silcon Valley. Her advice to women who want to rise to the next level in their careers was to simply “lean in” or be more assertive in their careers, which has become a cultural phenomenon. Her 2010 TED Talk bestselling book and nonprofit Lean In propelled her to the kind of institutional stardom that few chief operating officers enjoy when they are number two in their companies.

Sandberg has been among Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s most trusted deputies for years, and people have spoken of the two informally as “co-CEOs” – making her one of the few influential women at the helm of the tech giant.

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“This is a huge loss in terms of simply representing women in Silicon Valley in a meaningful way,” said Crystal Patterson, former senior director at Facebook and current director of Washington Media Group. “There is no other Cheryl.”

Over the years, Sandberg has struggled to retain her voice as a women’s champion, as Facebook, which changed its name to Meta last year, continued to sweep political debate during her tenure. Sandberg has faced criticism for, among other things, Viral misinformation about covid And the company’s role in spreading the role of former President Donald Trump False allegations that the 2020 presidential election It was falsified.

“Her value as a reporter has certainly changed over time with the company’s fortunes,” Patterson added.

While women have made small gains in rising to the highest levels of corporate power, the third group is still dominated by men. In 2021, 26 percent of all CEOs and managers were women, up from 15 percent in 2019, according to the Report by the feminist advocacy group Catalyst.

The movement to get more women into better roles in corporate America has stalled in recent years. Faced with difficult choices about how to balance career aspirations with the demands of caring for loved ones during the pandemic-induced lockdowns, many women have turned. 2021 report by McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.Org It found that one in three women had considered leaving the workforce or changing careers, which is an increase from the proportion of women who said the same during the first few months of the pandemic.

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Female workers, especially in ethnic minorities, were often overrepresented in jobs hard hit by the pandemic. A recent report issued by the National Women’s Legal Center have found That there were still fewer women in the workforce in January 2022 than there were in February 2020, while men mostly regained their job losses during this time frame.

Sandberg said in an interview with The Post that she believes the Lean In campaign can survive and will get over her departure from Facebook..

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There are some other notable women in tech who could pick up where Sandberg left off. Last year, Fidji Simo left her position as the head of the Facebook app to become the CEO of Instacart. Deborah Liu, also a former CEO of Facebook, becomes the CEO of Ancestry.com. Susan Wojcicki is the CEO of YouTube, and Safra Katz holds that title at the software company Oracle.

Jennifer Newsted, Facebook’s chief legal officer, and chief commercial officer, Marne Levine, recently took on larger roles at the social media giant.

“There are still a lot of issues for women in tech, but Cheryl is leaving behind a long-running career of female executives who can take on the role,” said Katie Harpath, a former Facebook employee and CEO of consultancy Anchor Cheng.

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Sandberg’s image as a corporate feminist was first polished after TED Talk 2010, where she chronicled what she saw as the reasons women still struggle to compete with men for advancement in the company. She argued, among other things, that women often hold themselves back by not taking credit for their earnings or not seeking more ambitious opportunities for fear of not being able to manage the demands of their home life.

“No one gets to the corner desk by sitting on the side, not at the table,” she said. “And nobody gets a promotion if they think they don’t deserve their success.”

Sandberg followed up the conversation with a 2013 book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Which helped propel her into the spotlight. Later, she created the Lean In Foundation, which helps organize networking groups for women to support each other in their careers.

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But Sandberg’s ideas soon faced criticism for failing to take into account the additional barriers that women of color and those not working in corporate settings face. Others argued that she was underestimating the systemic barriers that keep women out of boardrooms and overstating the level of personal agency in the matter.

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Amy Nelson, founder and co-CEO of a women’s joint startup called Riveter, said she hopes Sandberg will focus on bringing greater equality into the conversation started by Lean In.

“She was talking about something in front of a lot of people regarding the need for professional women to have community and stand up for each other, and I think Lean In played a crucial role in changing that,” Nelson said. “But I also think it’s very clear that being able to lean is a privilege largely owned by white women, and the discussion is left behind by women who don’t have the money, connections, or support.”

“I think we need to have that conversation,” Nelson continued. Wouldn’t it be nice if Cheryl led that discussion?

Lean In’s strategy has also faced philosophical challenges from the #MeToo movement, which has highlighted the pervasive culture of sexual harassment and discrimination that persists even for highly successful women in their careers.

However, on Wednesday, women on and off Facebook congratulated her for taking the step.

“I think she started that movement,” said Debbie Frost, a former Facebook CEO and current advisor to Lean In. “I don’t think that leaves when you leave. In fact, I think the impact that you can have on more companies and organizations now is going to be the most profound and exciting thing.”

As for Sandberg’s future, she said, it has yet to be fully decided. In a Facebook post announcing her departure, she said that she would marry again soon and would continue raising her children.

“I’m not quite sure what the future will hold – I’ve learned that there is absolutely no one,” she said in the post. “I know it will involve focusing more on my foundation and philanthropy, which is more important to me than ever given how important this moment is for a woman.”

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