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The “female face of Facebook”, COO Sheryl Sandberg, announced her impending departure from Meta. On Wednesday, Sandberg posted a lengthy statement announcing to the public she is saying goodbye to Meta, where she has been a leader for fourteen years.
While she hinted at her reason for leaving in her post, an exclusive interview she gave Fortune dug in deeper on her motivation to leave the social media giant. In her post, she shared, “I am not entirely sure what the future will bring – I have learned no one ever is. But I know it will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women.”
Yahoo News reported, Sheryl Sandberg said her decision to step down as chief operating officer of Facebook’s parent company, Meta, was motivated by the possibility that the Supreme Court could soon overturn Roe v. Wade.
“It’s just not a job that leaves room for a lot of other stuff in your life,” Sandberg told Fortune in explaining her departure. “This is a really important moment for women. This is a really important moment for me to be able to do more with my philanthropy, with my foundation.
Politico published a leaked draft opinion on May 2nd from Dobbs Vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, pending litigation at the Supreme Court. This leaked opinion written by Justice Alito shows the Supreme Court may be poised to overturn Roe Vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood Vs. Casey, the cases that set the standards for abortion rights in America.
This possible outcome from the Supreme Court has many abortion activists motivated, and this seems to include Sandberg.
Sandberg had her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” published in 2013. She was inspired to write the book after her 2010 TED talk titled, “Why we have too few women leaders”, which can be seen below.
Time magazine put Sandberg on the cover of their magazine in 2013 with the caption, “Don’t hate her because she’s successful”. In the article inside they wrote, “It’s probably not an overstatement to say Sandberg is embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism and reframe discussions of gender since the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971.”
With all of this, it doesn’t seem like much of a surprise that Sandberg is leaving her role at Meta now to become more of an activist. Advocating for what she feels is important, Women leading in the workplace, Feminism, and abortion rights.
Many view abortion as a fundamental right and call it women’s health care. There are also many on the left that celebrate their abortions and proclaims them publicly as the reason they have gotten so far in life. Michelle Williams, in her Best Actress acceptance speech from 2020 illuded to her abortion and thanked “ God or whomever you pray to” for the right to an abortion.
Sandberg will stay on the Meta board of directors, but by fall will be gone from her active role within the company.
Peter Thiel announced in February he would be leaving the Meta board of directors, Thiel is a supporter of former President Trump and is known as one of his most vocal supporters in the Silicon Valley.
Sheryl Sandberg’s statement posted on Facebook reads in full:
“Today, I am sharing the news that after 14 years, I will be leaving Meta.
When I first met Mark, I was not really looking for a new job – and I could have never predicted how meeting him would change my life. We were at a holiday party at Daniel L Rosensweig‘s house. I was introduced to Mark as I walked in the door, and we started talking about his vision for Facebook. I had tried The Facebook, as it was first called, but still thought the internet was a largely anonymous place to search for funny pictures. Mark’s belief that people would put their real selves online to connect with other people was so mesmerizing that we stood by that door and talked for the rest of the night. I told Dan later that I got a new life at that party but never got a single drink, so he owed me one.
Many months later, after countless – and I mean countless – dinners and conversations with Mark, he offered me this job. It was chaotic at first. I would schedule a meeting with an engineer for nine o’clock only to find that they would not show up. They assumed I meant nine p.m., because who would come to work at nine a.m.? We had some ads, but they were not performing well, and most advertisers I met wanted to take over our homepage like The Incredible Hulk movie had on MySpace. One was so angry when I said no to her homepage idea that she slammed her fist on the table, walked out of the room, and never returned. That first summer, Mark realized that he had never had a chance to travel, so he went away for a month, leaving me and Matt Cohler in charge without a ton of direction and almost no ability to contact him. It seemed crazy – but it was a display of trust I have never forgotten.
When I was considering joining Facebook, my late husband, Dave, counseled me not to jump in and immediately try to resolve every substantive issue with Mark, as we would face so many over time. Instead, I should set up the right process with him. So, on the way in, I asked Mark for three things – that we would sit next to each other, that he would meet with me one-on-one every week, and that in those meetings he would give me honest feedback when he thought I messed something up. Mark said yes to all three but added that the feedback would have to be mutual. To this day, he has kept those promises. We still sit together (OK, not through COVID), meet one-on-one every week, and the feedback is immediate and real.
Sitting by Mark’s side for these 14 years has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime. Mark is a true visionary and a caring leader. He sometimes says that we grew up together, and we have. He was just 23 and I was already 38 when we met, but together we have been through the massive ups and downs of running this company, as well as his marriage to the magnificent Priscilla, the sorrow of their miscarriages and the joy of their childbirths, the sudden loss of Dave, my engagement to Tom, and so much more. In the critical moments of my life, in the highest highs and in the depths of true lows, I have never had to turn to Mark, because he was already there.
When I joined Facebook, I had a two-year-old son and a six-month-old daughter. I did not know if this was the right time for a new and demanding role. The messages were everywhere that women – and I – could not be both a leader and a good mother, but I wanted to give it a try. Once I started, I realized that to see my children before they went to sleep, I had to leave the office at 5:30 p.m., which was when work was just getting going for many of my new colleagues. In my previous role at Google, there were enough people and buildings that leaving early wasn’t noticed, but Facebook was a small startup and there was nowhere to hide. More out of necessity than bravery, I found my nerve and walked out early anyway. Then, supported by Mark, I found my voice to admit this publicly and then talk about the challenges women face in the workplace. My hope was to make this a bit easier for others and help more women believe they can and should lead.
I am beyond grateful to the thousands of brilliant, dedicated people at Meta with whom I have had the privilege of working over the last 14 years. Every day someone does something that stops me in my tracks and reminds me how lucky I am to be surrounded by such remarkable colleagues. This team is filled with exceptionally talented people who have poured their hearts and minds into building products that have had a profound impact on the world.
It’s because of this team – past and present – that more than three billion people use our products to keep in touch and share their experiences. More than 200 million businesses use them to create virtual storefronts, communicate with customers, and grow. Billions of dollars have been raised for causes people believe in.
Behind each of these statistics is a story. Friends who would have lost touch but didn’t. Families that stayed in contact despite being separated by oceans. Communities that have rallied together. Entrepreneurial people – especially women and others who have faced obstacles and discrimination – who have turned their ideas into successful businesses.
Last week, a friend saw a post about a mutual friend of ours having a baby and told me that she remembers how before Instagram, she would have missed this moment. When the women in Lean In’s global Circles community couldn’t meet in person, they used Facebook to encourage each other and share advice for navigating work and life during the pandemic. At an International Women’s Day lunch, a woman told me that her Facebook birthday fundraiser generated enough money to provide shelter for two women experiencing domestic abuse. Just last month, I heard about how in India, the Self Employed Women’s Association connects over WhatsApp to organize and increase their collective bargaining power. I’ve loved traveling the world (physically and virtually) to meet small business owners and hear their stories – like Zuzanna Sielicka Kalczyńska in Poland, who started a business with her sister selling cuddly stuffed animals that make white noise to sooth crying babies. They began with a single Facebook post in 2014 and have gone on to sell in more than 20 countries and build a workforce mostly made up of moms like them.
The debate around social media has changed beyond recognition since those early days. To say it hasn’t always been easy is an understatement. But it should be hard. The products we make have a huge impact, so we have the responsibility to build them in a way that protects privacy and keeps people safe. Just as I believe wholeheartedly in our mission, our industry, and the overwhelmingly positive power of connecting people, I and the dedicated people of Meta have felt our responsibilities deeply. I know that the extraordinary team at Meta will continue to work tirelessly to rise to these challenges and keep making our company and our community better. I also know that our platforms will continue to be an engine of growth for the businesses around the world that rely on us.
When I took this job in 2008, I hoped I would be in this role for five years. Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life. I am not entirely sure what the future will bring – I have learned no one ever is. But I know it will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women. And as Tom and I get married this summer, parenting our expanded family of five children. Over the next few months, Mark and I will transition my direct reports and I will leave the company this fall. I still believe as strongly as ever in our mission, and I am honored that I will continue to serve on Meta’s board of directors.
I am so immensely proud of everything this team has achieved. The businesses we’ve helped and the business we’ve built. The culture we’ve nurtured together. And I’m especially proud that this is a company where many, many exceptional women and people from diverse backgrounds have risen through our ranks and become leaders – both in our company and in leadership roles elsewhere.
Thank you to the colleagues who inspire me every day with their commitment to our mission, to our partners around the world who have enabled us to build a business that serves their businesses, and especially to Mark for giving me this opportunity and being one of the best friends anyone could ever have.”
Mark Zuckerberg posted a statement to Facebook as well about Sandberg’s departure. It appears that people will just be shuffled around and different people who currently work for Meta will take over the different roles Sandberg held according to Zuckerberg’s Statement. Javier Olivan will be the new COO but in more of a traditional sense.
Zuckerberg’s statement in full reads:
“It’s the end of an era. After 14 years, my good friend and partner Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down as COO of Meta.
When Sheryl joined me in 2008, I was only 23 years old and I barely knew anything about running a company. We’d built a great product — the Facebook website — but we didn’t yet have a profitable business and we were struggling to transition from a small startup to a real organization. Sheryl architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company. She created opportunities for millions of people around the world, and she deserves the credit for so much of what Meta is today.
It’s unusual for a business partnership like ours to last so long. I think ours did because Sheryl is such an amazing person, leader, partner, and friend. She cares deeply about the people in her life and she is generous about nurturing relationships and helping you grow as a person. She has taught me so much and she has been there for many of the important moments in my life, both personally and professionally. Whether going through the different transitions we’ve made as a company over the years, or when she supported me and Priscilla as we navigated challenges having children, our partnership has always been deeper than just business.
I’m going to miss running this company with Sheryl. But I’m glad that she’ll continue to serve on our board of directors so we can benefit from her wisdom and experience even after she transitions out of her day-to-day management role in the coming months.
Looking forward, I don’t plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure. I’m not sure that would be possible since she’s a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way. But even if it were possible, I think Meta has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more closely integrated, rather than having all the business and operations functions organized separately from our products.
One of Sheryl’s greatest legacies is the incredible team she has built. Some of these leaders have already stepped up into larger roles reporting to me, like Nick Clegg as President, Global Affairs and Jennifer Newstead as Chief Legal Officer.
Marne Levine, our Chief Business Officer and the top business person who handles our partnerships, will report to Javier Olivan so that our Ads and Business Platform product group will be closer to the Meta Business Group.
Javi will become our next Chief Operating Officer since he will now lead our integrated ads and business products in addition to continuing to lead our infrastructure, integrity, analytics, marketing, corporate development and growth teams. But this role will be different from what Sheryl has done. It will be a more traditional COO role where Javi will be focused internally and operationally, building on his strong track record of making our execution more efficient and rigorous. As part of this, Molly Cutler, our VP Strategic Response, will join Javi’s team and report to Naomi Gleit.
Justin Osofsky will report to Chris Cox. In addition to his role overseeing Global Operations and Instagram’s business organization, Justin will now take on an additional responsibility building a content team that works across business and product that will train our AI recommendation systems to help you discover the most interesting, relevant, and personalized content across Facebook and Instagram.
Lori Goler, our Head of People, will now report directly to me. Maxine Williams, our Chief Diversity Officer, will continue her role on our People team, working on my staff as well.
These are all talented and experienced leaders who I’ve worked closely with over the years, and I’m confident they’ll continue to do great work in this new structure.
I’m sad that the day is coming when I won’t get to work as closely with Sheryl. But more than anything, I’m grateful for everything she has done to build Meta. She has done so much for me, for our community, and for the world — and we’re all better off for it.”