- Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, is one of the highest-profile women in business.
- In a post on Facebook, Sandberg described experiencing sexual harassment on several occasions while trying to do her job – though never by anyone she worked for.
- In one incident, she said, she declined to go for dinner with a man at a conference who later turned up outside her hotel door, banging to be let in.
- Sandberg said that harassment was usually a power play and that the problem would fade only when more women had senior positions in government and business.
Despite being one of the most powerful women in the world, Sheryl Sandberg has experienced multiple instances of sexual harassment while doing her job.
Facebook’s chief operating officer outlined her experiences in a Facebook post on Sunday about harassment and changing the culture in companies and government.
Sandberg wrote of one scary incident in which she described having to call security after a man started banging on her hotel door.
She didn’t name names or dates and said she hadn’t actually worked for any of the harassers but said the incidents had happened “in the course” of doing her job.
Here’s what she said (emphasis ours):
“At 48 years old, I’m lucky that I’ve never been sexually harassed or assaulted by anyone I worked for. The fact that this could be considered lucky is a problem in itself, but based on the numbers, I am lucky. I’ve only ever worked for men, and all of my bosses have been not just respectful, but deeply supportive.
“Still, like almost every woman – and some men – I know, I have experienced sexual harassment in the form of unwanted sexual advances in the course of doing my job. A hand on my leg under the table at a meeting. Married men – all decades older than I – offering ‘career advice’ and then suggesting that they could share it with me alone late at night. The conference where a man I declined leaving a dinner with came to my hotel room late at night and banged on my door until I called security.”
It isn’t clear how much of this occurred while Sandberg has been working at Facebook, where she has been chief operating officer since 2008.
In her post, Sandberg quoted a famous phrase from the 1992 US presidential campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid,” and came up with her own take on sexual harassment: “It’s the power, stupid.”
She wrote: “As I’ve become more senior and gained more power, these moments have occurred less and less frequently. But they still happen every so often, even in my current job – but only ever with men who, in that moment, feel that they have more power than I do. That’s why I’m absolutely convinced that it’s the power, stupid.”
She added: “Ultimately, the thing that will bring the most to change our culture is the one I’ve been writing and talking about for a long time: having more women with more power.”
Sandberg called for clearer workplace policies around harassment, including training that made punishment and reporting processes crystal clear. She also said men in senior positions should not be afraid to spend time with female employees but should mentor and advise them so that more women would be promoted.
Sandberg’s comments coincide with the “Me Too” movement in which women – high-profile or not – have been encouraged to reveal instances in which they faced sexual harassment.
The movement started with revelations in November that the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein faced allegations going back decades of harassing and even raping aspiring actresses. The news triggered global outrage, and other stories soon followed with accusations against the Amazon Studios head Roy Price; the actor Kevin Spacey; the NBC news anchor Mark Halperin; and many others.
You can read Sandberg’s post in full here: