The board seat will expand Sandberg’s already-huge role at the company, where she has been Mark Zuckerberg’s number two and a public figure with a rabid following for years. And it’s a good olive branch to Facebook critics who have attacked the composition of its board, which, until today, consisted of seven white guys of varying pastiness.
Facebook’s decision to put Sandberg on the board won’t pacify critics of the company’s corporate governance structure, which puts the majority of actual control in Zuckerberg’s hands through a dual-class stock scheme.
But it speaks well of Facebook’s commitment to increasing its diversity and addressing its critics. And it’s a fitting, if overdue, reward for the woman who has, in some ways, saved Facebook from itself.
The Wall Street Journal excerpted a tell-all by a female Facebook ex-employee last week that painted a cringe-worthy picture of the company’s gender politics. The book, The Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of the Social Network by Facebook employee No. 51, Katherine Losse, won’t officially be published until tomorrow. But judging from the excerpt, Sandberg has been a strong, stealthy advocate for women at Facebook and perhaps the only thing standing between it and a number of embarrassing lawsuits.
Losse writes of experiencing an “unrepentantly boyish company culture” during her time at Facebook. When Sandberg came aboard, Losse writes, she went to the new COO with horror stories about men in her department who were creating a hostile work environment by propositioning female workers and being inappropriately aggressive towards her.
I didn’t hear back immediately about any of the issues I had raised with her, until she stopped briefly by my desk one day a few months later and in the low, succinct office voice that she mastered, said, “I just want you to know that the situations you told me about have both been handled.”
I had heard nothing about it. “You see, I’m so good that I make things happen and no one even knows about them,” she said with a smile. Sure enough, the manager who propositioned employees had been subtly demoted and the aggressive engineer moved to another team.
If Losse’s account is true, a board seat isn’t nearly enough to cover the debt Facebook owes Sandberg. But it’s a start.