Facebook chief operating officer and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg deftly avoided making any politically charged remarks at the Watermark women’s conference in Silicon Valley today, even after being pressed repeatedly on whether she felt compelled to take more action in the era of a new government administration.
“I think we don’t know what’s going to be effective yet,” Sandberg told Recode’s Kara Swisher, who conducted the interview. “It’s very early days for the administration.”
With regards to immigration issues, Sandberg ultimately said she’s “hopeful” about the fate of the “Dreamers,” the common name for undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents when they were children. “I think we’re all hopeful on the Dreamers. The president has said he’s going to do the right thing by the Dreamers and I think we’re all hopeful there.”
When asked about the recent meeting between Silicon Valley tech leaders and President Donald Trump, Sandberg said, “This administration is going to have broad ability to take action on things we care about, jobs, our ability to hire, our ability to grow. A dialogue there is important.”
“So you still see dialogue as the way?” Swisher asked.
“I can’t predict what will happen,” Sandberg replied. “I have to remain hopeful. I look at this audience of women ... If the same group of women came together, there would be more women running companies, hopefully running for office.”
Sandberg, in the days following the inauguration, was surprisingly quiet on political issues, including women’s rights. She did not participate in the Women’s March on January 21st, nor did she post about it on Facebook. Her silence was perceived by some as hypocritical, considering Sandberg’s efforts to position herself as a key figure in the women's leadership movement.
Then yesterday Sandberg posted a personal story to Facebook about her great-great-grandmother immigrating to the US after fleeing religious persecution, and wrote that Trump’s recent executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries “defies the heart and values that define the best of our nation.” She also personally donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood, at a time when Republican congressional leaders are pushing to defund the organization.
When Swisher asked Sandberg why she didn’t participate in the Women’s March, she said she had a personal obligation that day. “I just felt bad that I couldn’t be there,” Sandberg said. “And once I felt bad I felt like I couldn’t say anything.”
“It’s not too late!” a woman from the audience called out in response.
Swisher also asked, commenting that she’s been asked this “at least 400 times before,” whether Sandberg was ever going to run for public office.
“I’ve said no, and I’m going to continue to say no,” Sandberg said.
“I continue not to believe you,” Swisher replied.
“You know how journalists have sources? I’m the best source on this,” Sandberg quipped. She went on to emphasize that she loves working for Facebook because of the massive platform it provides for people to share stories, citing a post written by the husband of a victim of the 2015 Paris terror attacks as an example of the deeply personal stories people share.