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Like so many women who’ve spoken up this year, Sheryl Sandberg has experienced sexual harassment by men in power.
On Sunday morning the 48-year-old Facebook CEO wrote a lengthy post on the platform sharing her experiences with harassment, her thoughts on men in power, and the problematic backlash that can stem from women speaking up for themselves.
Though Sandberg said she’s lucky to have never been sexually harassed or assaulted by any of the men she’s worked for, she admitted she’s had to deal with “unwanted sexual advances” from men with more power than her while doing her job.
“A hand on my leg under the table at a meeting. Married men – all decades older than I – offering ‘career advice’ and then suggesting that they could share it with me alone late at night. The conference where a man I declined leaving a dinner with came to my hotel room late at night and banged on my door until I called security,” she wrote in the post.
“I didn’t work for any of these men. But in every single one of these situations, they had more power than I did. That’s not a coincidence. It’s why they felt free to cross that line.”
Sandberg went on to explain how she feels men with more power than women, and the potential to abuse that power, is a main source of the problem, sharing that since she’s moved up in the industry and gained more power herself “these moments have occurred less and less frequently.”
“That’s why I’m absolutely convinced that it’s the power,” she wrote.
As more and more women continue to speak up about sexual harassment in the workplace, Sandberg acknowledged it’s a “critical moment” in the world, but one that requires a better response from employers.
“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,” Sandberg said. “Too many workplaces lack clear policies about how to handle accusations of sexual harassment.”
“Too many workplaces lack clear policies about how to handle accusations of sexual harassment.”
She suggests that all workplaces should clearly define their principles regarding sexual harassment and institute policies. She feels proper training is necessary in all workplaces, and that any claims should be looked at seriously and with consistency.
Sandberg went on the explain that action needs to be taken not only when addressing claims, but to actively remind those in the workplace they must not remain silent when issues arise.
“It is my hope that as more employers put thoughtful, effective policies into place – and as more is done to punish the perpetrators – more people will come forward without fear,” she wrote.
Sandberg added that many women live in fear that speaking up will harm their careers, noting she’s already heard backlash to support these fears in the form of comments like, “This is why you shouldn’t hire women.”
But she believes women are essential to the workplace, and more of them deserve to work in powerful roles.
“It wouldn’t solve all the problems we face if more women were in power – although I believe we could get quite a lot of good done,” she wrote. “But one thing’s for certain: many fewer people would be groped and worse while trying to do their jobs. And that would be a major step in the right direction.”