Published on: November 29, 2018
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
One of technology’s savviest observers and analysts is Kara Swisher, who has written for the Wall Street Journal, Re/code (which she co-founded), and, lately, the New York Times.
The other day - not surprisingly, because we’ve all been commenting on the story in one way or another - Swisher wrote an excellent piece for the Times in which she talked about Facebook’s trust and transparency issues, and specifically about COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Sandberg, of course, is more than just the COO of Facebook. She’s also the author of ‘Lean In,” which focused on women in management and leadership and helped to make her a feminist icon as well as cementing her reputation as a corporate and cultural leader.
But now, with Facebook experiencing significant criticism over how it has handled a variety of privacy and security issues, Sandberg - who has admitted, with some apparent reluctance, a degree of complicity - is facing some calls for her removal from company leadership.
That may, in fact, be appropriate. I’m not sure. In fact, neither is Kara Swisher. But she is sure of one thing - that Sandberg is vulnerable because she’s been cast in the role of the professional manager/leader, while CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to be facing calls for his removal. “And yet he is the one with the power at Facebook. He is its top executive, its visionary founder and, most of all, its controlling shareholder,” Swisher writes. “No matter his responsibility, he is unkillable, unfireable and untouchable.”
She notes that one of “the key lessons to learn here about the tech industry today: Everyone expects so little from the male leaders who are often seen as the fulcrum of the digital worlds they create, while the female leaders … are held to a tougher line.”
Keep in mind that this is a company where a top executive, Andy Rubin, got a $90 million severance payment as he left the company because of sexual misconduct issues.
Swisher doesn’t argue that Sandberg - or any other woman executive - should escape responsibility and culpability because of gender. Just that it should be equally shared. And I agree with that … gender shouldn’t matter.
Which shouldn’t be a radical notion. But I think it is.
What is often true in tech,” she writes, “is that men are seen as the key players, and women are just not seen as crucial to a company's success. That inequity has become a theme of a wide range of employment issues across Silicon Valley of late, including the phenomenon of ‘underleveling’ — hiring women and people of color at a lower level than they deserve.”
And I have to say, I wonder how much this is happening in other industries … especially as a lot of white males feel threatened in business and culture by the demographic shifts taking place in the country.
There was another passage from her column that I found compelling, in which she quoted Stephanie Parker, a former Google employee, as saying to a group of women tech employees, “Where do you think Google got that $90 million they used to pay out Andy Rubin? They got it from every time you worked late. Every promotion you didn’t get because they said there’s not enough budget, you have to wait. It’s from every contractor who came to work sick because they have no paid time off. These are conscious decisions that the company is making, and abusers are getting rich off of our hard work. It’s just not fair, and they completely know what they’re doing.”
Y’know something? That’s not just a tech issue. It is an issue at every company where senior executives feather their own nests while making budget cuts that affect people on the front lines, who do not believe that, especially in the 21st century, the companies with sustainable business models are likely to be the ones that everybody feels they have skin in the game, where they feel invested in the business and where the business invests in everybody.
That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: