Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg speaks out about sexual harassment, warns of backlash

Sheryl Sandberg on a panel at the Fortune Global Forum on November 3, 2015 in San Francisco. 

Kimberly White / Getty Images for Fortune

NEW YORK -- Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is warning of a potential backlash against women and urging companies to put into place clear policies on how allegations of sexual harassment are handled.

In a Facebook post over the weekend, Sandberg said that she has experienced harassment while doing her job but never by anyone she's worked for. She did note, however, that in each instance the harasser had more power than she did. 

"That's not a coincidence," the 48-year-old executive wrote. "It's why they felt free to cross that line." 

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Posted by Sheryl Sandberg on Sunday, December 3, 2017


Her lengthy post on the subject follows high-profile sexual misconduct scandals involving major media and business leaders  including Harvey WeinsteinKevin SpaceyMatt Lauer and Charlie Rose, as well as a number of prominent tech industry insiders and Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

Sandberg said that the current movement taking place is empowering victims to speak up, but she says "cheering" is not enough. 

"We need systemic, lasting changes that deter bad behavior and protect everyone, from professionals climbing the corporate ladder to workers in low-paid positions who often have little power," she wrote. "We need to end the abuse of power imbalances due to gender — and race and ethnicity, too. We must not lose this opportunity." 

The Facebook executive said "too many workplaces lack clear policies about how to handle accusations of sexual harassment." She recommends every workplace start with clear principles and put in place policies to support them. That includes creating training sessions on proper workplace behavior, taking all claims seriously, establishing an investigation process and taking swift, decisive action against wrongdoing. 

"We have to be vigilant to make sure this happens," Sandberg wrote. "I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: 'This is why you shouldn't hire women.' Actually, this is why you should."

Sandberg concluded her post by questioning what would happen if men no longer held power over women. She admits that having more women in power "wouldn't solve all the problems," but says it could bring "quite a lot of good." 

"Many fewer people would be groped and worse while trying to do their jobs," Sandberg wrote. "And that would be a major step in the right direction."