In the internet era, Sheryl Sandberg appeared to be the archetype for the modern woman. The Facebook chief operating officer seemed to have cracked the glass ceiling by becoming one of the most influential players in Silicon Valley, named to the Time 100 annual list of the most influential people in the world. In her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sandberg urged women to break down the societal and personal barriers to women’s progress by taking leadership positions. Like Barack Obama, whose administration she advised, she seemed to personify the idea that sexism and the other isms could be a thing of the past.
But according to a new book, even Sandberg has fallen prey to the infamous glass ceiling. The book, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, aims to attack the company for its inability to stop the spread of misinformation. The books’ authors Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang argue that features such as polarization, ideological silos, and outrage escalation were designed into the application under the leadership of Sandberg as part of her mission to monopolize Facebook users’ attention. This scheme allowed Facebook to charge advertisers excessive rates to communicate with consumers obsessed with their emotionally charged newsfeed. Thus, generating exorbitant profits.
An undercurrent of the book tells of Sandberg’s increasing marginalization at Facebook. Much as the Trump presidency revealed that the promised post-racial society had yet to materialize, it also laid bare the continuing toll sexism takes upon women’s progress.