In the days following the Women's March last Saturday, as Facebook news feeds around the world filled up with images of the global protests, “Lean In” author and vocal women's advocate Sheryl Sandberg shared one post with her nearly 2 million Facebook followers: An interview with open water endurance swimmer Diana Nyad.
In the week leading up to the event, which drew millions of people in a massive demonstration of support for women's rights the day after President Trump's inauguration, Sandberg posted about a Syrian refugee girl, a survey about the future of business, and visits and meetings she had in Europe. At the Davos forum in Switzerland, she zeroed in on the problem of gender stereotypes in advertising.
But until Thursday, the Facebook chief operating officer and billionaire promoter of women's empowerment had posted nothing on her Facebook page about the Women's March or Trump's inauguration.
That changed when Sandberg shared an article about an executive order Trump signed Monday, calling for a revival of a Reagan-era policy that bans U.S. aid to international health groups that promote abortions. The policy, she wrote, “could have terrible consequences for women and families around the world,” adding that “this week's executive order reinstating the global gag rule will make that work much harder.”
She blasted the policy, saying, “This ban is harsher and broader than past orders by past presidents, because it covers every program that falls under global health assistance. That means it'll hurt more people.”
Sandberg is referring to the Trump administration's indication that it would expand the scope of the previous policy beyond family planning assistance funding from the State Department to all U.S. global health assistance, The Washington Post's Fact Checker Michelle Ye He Lee reported Thursday. In her post Thursday, Sandberg cited her own career experience. “I started my career working at the World Bank on health care in India,” she wrote. “I saw firsthand how clinics funded by foreign aid are often the only source of health care for women.”
Sandberg's post followed a critical column published Thursday in the Silicon Valley publication Pando that questioned why she had not spoken out more against Trump or about the Women's March. “Since November, I've heard one phrase uttered over and over by senior women in the Valley: 'Why isn't Sheryl saying anything about this?' " wrote the site's founder, Sarah Lacy, in the sharply worded essay.
Referring to Sandberg's role as a senior executive at Facebook — whose effect on the election has been debated endlessly since November — Lacy writes that “I understand that Sandberg is in a brutal position, but that is the thing about standing up for what's right. It only means anything when it's inconvenient.”
A spokeswoman said in an email that Sandberg's post was not a response to Lacy's column, and that Sandberg “supported the march but was not able to attend for personal reasons. She wishes she did.” She declined to comment further on why Sandberg had not commented on the march, either.
Since the election, Sandberg, a Clinton supporter who worked in the Treasury Department under Larry Summers and was rumored as a potential candidate for a Cabinet post had Clinton won, has not said much about its outcome, engaging on noncontroversial political themes and commenting on the election's historic nature in its aftermath. She encouraged girls in a National Geographic interview: “If you're interested in it, be a leader,” she said, and “don't let the world tell you girls can't lead.” She set aside $100 million in Facebook shares for charity, funds that would reportedly be used to fund LeanIn.org, her nonprofit organization focused on women's empowerment.
Earlier in January, she praised the letter Jenna and Barbara Bush wrote to the Obama girls, calling it “a beautiful message of support and sisterhood,” and she has written about violence against women and girls' education. On Nov. 10, she posted that “the hallmark of democracy is the peaceful transition of power” and said “we need to do better to ensure that every child gets a great education, every adult has the opportunity to support their families, and that we embrace each other to get there.”
She noted that it was the first time a woman had been a nominee of a major party, and “even though we fell short, that should make us all proud,” noting the women newly elected to the Senate. “There is still so much to do, and we need the full talents of our population to tackle the challenges our country faces. We must encourage more women to run for office across every party at every level of government until our representation matches our share of the population. History is on our side — and we will get there.”
Some have questioned whether Sandberg, who has a book about resilience coming out this spring with Wharton professor Adam Grant called “Option B,” could be a potential candidate herself. Several reports have speculated about the possibility, especially in an outsider-friendly political environment, but Sandberg doesn't appear interested. “As always, she loves FB and is not leaving,” her spokesperson said in an email.
She did, however, close her post Thursday with a line from a famous female candidate. “Women’s rights are human rights,” Sandberg wrote, echoing Clinton's memorable line from her United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women speech in Beijing in 1995. “There is no more basic right than health care. Women around the world deserve our support.”