Of Facebook, Feet, and Mouths.
January 23, 2014 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Sheryl Sandberg, who has been a bit of a controversial figure in the past(Previously, Previously-er) has just rounded the bend on her fortune surpassing the 1 billion mark. Bloomberg reported on this, and included a quote of David Kirkpatrick; “Did she do a billion dollars-worth of work? I don’t know, She had the good fortune to land in the right place where her talents could really be applauded”. This of course begs a very valid question, Would anyone ask a man this?
posted by emptythought (65 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, it does get asked of male billionaires, often, when we talk about wealth and privilege and the ways that capitalism is a problem. But would Bloomberg ask that about a man? That's a whole different kettle of fish.
posted by Sequence at 4:31 PM on January 23 [39 favorites]


Yeah, people asked this about Zuckerberg. That doesn't mean sexism is finished or anything but it for sure gets asked of men.
posted by Jairus at 4:33 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Well of course I wouldn't ask that of a man. I'd change the pronouns.
posted by ckape at 4:33 PM on January 23 [15 favorites]


I didn't realize applause had so much monetary value.
posted by chrchr at 4:36 PM on January 23


I read the title before I read the main text, and I was thinking, "Oh, so is this about, like, the time I made fun of a picture of my friend's cat, and it turned out the cat had died?"

Re the actual content of the FPP, can we start asking every corporate exec asshole that question?

We should make them submit some kind of proposal for why they deserve to have that kind of money.
posted by Sara C. at 4:40 PM on January 23 [12 favorites]


Let's just say that the workplace has evolved to the point where we are now free to ask inane semi-insulting questions to anyone, regardless of gender.
posted by superelastic at 4:40 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Here's a more interesting question: When you tally up all the hours wasted on Facebook games, on petty Facebook kerfluffles and just on Facebook in general, has Facebook actually been a net positive - in the billions-of-dollars way of thinking - at all?
posted by Western Infidels at 4:41 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


To jump on the general bandwagon here, we should be asking this sort of question to every billionaire. Why did you get a billion dollars and 95% of your employees made $20,000 to $150,000?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:42 PM on January 23 [15 favorites]


Did she do a billion dollars-worth of work?

The average wage of a human being working today is around $18,000 (considering all people in the world who are working). It would take 55,555 years to earn $1bn by that standard. So no, there is no person who has done a billion dollars worth of work.
posted by graymouser at 4:42 PM on January 23 [65 favorites]


Cite on average wage.
posted by graymouser at 4:42 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


has Facebook actually been a net positive - in the billions-of-dollars way of thinking - at all?

Well, it keeps me from ever having to call my mother, so that's something.
posted by Sara C. at 4:43 PM on January 23 [17 favorites]


On the one hand if they earned a billion dollars through means that are within our current laws then they did a billion dollars worth of work because what your work is "worth" is just what the market will bear.

On the other hand FUCK YOU FREE MARKET.
posted by mcstayinskool at 4:45 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Just in case my above comment is misinterpreted as me having some kind of "Eat The Rich" axe to grind, my use of the term asshole is pure coincidence. I mean, I am a communist and all. But I don't actually hate all corporate executives.
posted by Sara C. at 4:47 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


That seems to be begging the question though. Here's a definition of worth and by that definition their work is worth that. Of course it is because that's how we defined work in the first place!
posted by Carillon at 4:50 PM on January 23


I don't think it diminishes the realness to sexism to say, yes this question gets asked about male billionaires all the time (as it should).
posted by the jam at 4:50 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Not meant to be snarky just thinks it's interesting that the way we approach the conversation helps reinforce the values that permit such displays in the first place.
posted by Carillon at 4:51 PM on January 23


I'm a bit baffled by the FPP question though-- Would anyone ask a man this?

Of course we could. And should. And have done so. Right? Haven't people been asking this of Bill Gates for decades?

Plenty of abhorrent workplace sexism to go around without worrying about whether Sandberg has been treated equally.
posted by mcstayinskool at 4:53 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


For the record, no human being in the history of the world has ever done "a billion dollars' worth" of work. Good god, the very idea is ridiculous.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:53 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


What's the old saying?

"Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

So feel free to tax the shit out of it.

As for the sexism angle. We wouldn't be asking whether this is a question asked of men if it weren't the case that there are so many fewer women billionaires as there are men billionaires so that when a woman "rounds the bend" and joins the special club, we're also reminded that there is in fact a special club. (Which club none of us will ever get near, except for maybe as catering staff. Those gigs tip well.)
posted by notyou at 4:53 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Would anyone ask a man this?

I think this statement should be qualified somewhat -- "anyone" should probably mean "writers at Fortune/Forbes/WSJ-type financial publications". Because ... on Metafilter? This question gets asked implicitly, like all the time, or anyone with that kind of money. It's probably still a good question whether women are treated equally by the "financial press" though.
posted by Hoopo at 4:53 PM on January 23 [9 favorites]


Based on standard conversions if Newton Meters to dollars it can be easily demonstrated that Sandberg did at least a billion dollars of work. Also I doubt that a billionaire would beg a poor question for anything, even the time.
posted by humanfont at 4:54 PM on January 23


Hoopo: I think this statement should be qualified somewhat -- "anyone" should probably mean "writers at Fortune/Forbes/WSJ-type financial publications"

Ugh, yea. The snark steamroller has plowed me down already, but i think this sums up both what i and the example tweet i linked to(which is far from the only one) meant by this.

Yea duh of course people on metafilter would go "could anyone at all do a billion dollars worth of work". No combination of google search terms could find any major publication asking this about a man.

I guess in the future i'll make a point of thinking even more than i already had "what is the snarkiest way someone could misinterpret this?". Really should have just written something like "Would any journalist or author publicly say this about a man?"
posted by emptythought at 4:59 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


All those philosophers talking about what would happen if an unstoppable force were to meet an immovable object obviously never thought to just give it a try and throw free market capitalism at entrenched misogyny.
posted by Mayor West at 4:59 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


The question is not whether someone did a billion dollars "worth of work" but whether their work created a billion dollars worth of value. Sandberg's work likely created much more than a billion dollars worth of value.
--
No combination of google search terms could find any major publication asking this about a man.

And how many of them have asked it about women? Other than this single quote in this single article, are there others? One data point isn't much of an argument, and it's editorializing in the FPP.
posted by shivohum at 5:02 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


The question is not whether someone did a billion dollars "worth of work" but whether their work created a billion dollars worth of value. Sandberg's work likely created much more than a billion dollars worth of value.

Yeah, if anything she's undervalued! *rolleyes*

Some people never get tired of the taste of boot.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:09 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


I didn't realize applause had so much monetary value.

Indirectly, it does. Why do you think so many people aspire to become actors, singers, comedians et al?
posted by davejay at 5:09 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


It's worth a billion dollars now, but if you believe the Facebook doomsayers, if she doesn't cash out and reinvest a big chunk of her FB stock in the next couple years, she'll be lucky to be a hundred-millionaire soon.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:10 PM on January 23


For the record I am a man and I have never done a billion dollars worth of work. But it is a new year.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:21 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if anything she's undervalued! *rolleyes*

Well, she was the one who figured out that advertising was the way to make the site profitable. Call it a no-brainer if you like, but the genius founders apparently missed it.

Why do you think so many people aspire to become actors, singers, comedians et al?


Cubicle-phobia.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:27 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize applause had so much monetary value.

Indirectly, it does. Why do you think so many people aspire to become actors, singers, comedians et al?


Performers and artists bring joy. Facebook brings only suffering.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:27 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Sheryl Sandberg has proven that Women can now be as rich and ignorant as Men about their Wealth and undeserved Fortune.

We have seen the rich and famous preach / selling their "Solutions" for the Rest of us for a long Time.

I rather prefer rich Guys like Bill & Melinda Gates who waste some of their Money to invent Stuff we need or Programs that actually change something.
posted by homodigitalis at 5:28 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


She doesn't have a billion dollars in cash. This figure isn't liquid assets. She owns 12.3 million shares. That makes her stake worth about $720 -- also, she has 4.7 million options, which would net her $220.6 million at her exercise price. And she was award more stock, which hasn't vested yest. The estimated value puts her over the $1 billion mark.
She wasn't paid a billion dollars, so raging about her paycheck vs. an employee's check is meaningless. FB's stock closed at $58.61 yesterday. If only we'd all bought in years ago.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:33 PM on January 23


but no one says murder female billionaires #misandry

I mean, seriously, if I ever meet a billionaire of either gender, I'll ask 'em to justify their wealth. But that's because I'm a bit of a dick.
posted by klangklangston at 5:36 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


If only we'd all bought in years ago.

It wasn't for sale years ago.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:37 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I feel like the class-conscious questions to be asked here are much more important than such vacuously speculative considerations about the media itself. Sexism abounds in demonstrable forms already, there's no need to show it by resorting to hypotheticals. Meanwhile, nobody asks if tens of millions of men and women alike deserve to be poor in America.
posted by clockzero at 5:45 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


The former CEO of my former company got millions of dollars n bonuses for his cost cutting measures (i.e. layoffs), so while he was getting 14.3 million dollars as a bonus hundred of employees were shown the door. I wanted to write him a letter and ask if he thought he deserved that money. I wanted to write him and ask what he did exactly to merit that kind of cash. I didn't write, mostly because I valued my job.

I did meet the man once and had to resist shoving him down a flight of steps.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:50 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


"This figure isn't liquid assets....... FB's stock closed at $58.61 yesterday."

This finance stuff is obviously too complicated for me.......

Sheryl Sandberg's Insider Trade Filings

seems pretty liquid to me, since she seems to have sold more than $200 million in the past 12 months.
posted by dglynn at 5:52 PM on January 23


So the problem with systematic massive inequity is that the people doing the oppressing don't get enough respect for their gender?

That kind of wealth is found among a handful of people and they own more than 1/2 the people on Earth. So what's being said here?
She has to really bust her hump and appear to do the work of 1.5 billion people as opposed to the male billionaires who are 1/2 assing it and doing the work equivalent of 750 million people but getting credit for 2 billion people?

Seriously, what?

FB's stock closed at $58.61 yesterday. If only we'd all bought in years ago.
Yeah, that IPO wasn't a huge scam.

Well, she was the one who figured out that advertising was the way to make the site profitable.
Ah, yes. A more efficient way to rattle the stick inside the swill bucket. Truly laudable.
Unlike those lazy teachers and firefighters, or suckers like Jonas Salk who aren't smart enough financially to profit off the little (non-advertising) "work" they do.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:53 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


I find Kirkpatrick's answer to be a lot more objectionable than the question. He uses three passive words to describe Sandberg's success: She had the good fortune to land in the right place where her talents could really be applauded. In other words, Sandberg contributed little to her own success.

That's a much more insidious kind of sexism, the assumption that a successful woman only got where she is because she somehow tripped and fell into a billion-dollar hole.
posted by Georgina at 6:00 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


When I learn how to monetise irony, people won't have to wonder if it's ironic that I get richer everytime they ask if something is ironic. It won't be ironic but I'll get paid anyway, which is ironic or close enough for the market.
posted by vicx at 6:04 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Even if we look at it in terms of value, millions of underpaid workers create many times their own wages in value. Fast food workers are just one example. The question in a class sense is, who reaps the value of the work done by others (including the unpaid, donated work most of us are doing every day for Facebook).

Sometime over the past few decades we reached a tipping point where computational power meant that small, incremental profits could accumulate into large streams and be driven into very small catchbasins - hedge funds, penny stocks, online ad/data vehicles. We long ago left a world in which the "best and brightest" deserve their fortunes in any sense of the word desert, and in which, instead, the high-earning sector has been driven to create justifications for their completely out-of-proportion earnings which result from nothing but the skewed mechanics and overprofitability of their industries, most of which create little in the way of real goods, built on the power of computers churning data.

I agree that it's sexist to ask it only of Sandberg. We should be asking it every day, of every high earner.
posted by Miko at 6:08 PM on January 23 [11 favorites]


That's a much more insidious kind of sexism, the assumption that a successful woman only got where she is because she somehow tripped and fell into a billion-dollar hole.

Is it sexism if that's how you believe that anyone with mind bending amounts of wealth came upon their fortune? Or do you subscribe to the "she did a billion dollars worth of work" school of thought?
posted by indubitable at 6:13 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


So the problem with systematic massive inequity is that the people doing the oppressing don't get enough respect for their gender?


what? Who said that?
posted by Hoopo at 6:18 PM on January 23


So questioning income inequality and executive pay is a cool liberal thing to do now, except when it's a woman with the billion bucks, it becomes sexist? Somebody has to write these rules down.
posted by zachlipton at 6:22 PM on January 23


$5 same as in metafilter.
posted by srboisvert at 6:26 PM on January 23


200 million sockpuppets! Think of all the favorites!
posted by srboisvert at 6:27 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


indubitable: Is it sexism if that's how you believe that anyone with mind bending amounts of wealth came upon their fortune?

No, of course not.

But when David Kirkpatrick -- technology writer, former Forbes journalist, and author of a "wonderfully biased history" of Facebook -- is asked about Sandberg by the yay-business! magazine Bloomberg and implies her success was little more than a fluke? Yes, I do consider that sexism.

Look at it this way: If Bloomberg had asked Kirkpatrick whether Zuckerberg did a billion dollars worth of work, do you think his entire response would've been "Guy got lucky"? That might've been a part of it, but I imagine he also would've mentioned Zuckerberg's drive, skills, clever decisions, etc.
posted by Georgina at 6:33 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


No!
It is important to call horse-puckey on executive pay and income inequality.
It is also important to call horse-puckey on sexist crapola such as the pull-quote.
This is not an either/or situation.
posted by mfu at 6:35 PM on January 23 [9 favorites]


So the problem with systematic massive inequity is that the people doing the oppressing don't get enough respect for their gender?

No, that's a problem with the financial press.
posted by immlass at 6:38 PM on January 23


200 million sockpuppets! Think of all the favorites!

ALTER TABLE POSTS ALTER COLUMN NUMBER_FAVOURITES BIGINT;
posted by Talez at 6:42 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I consider myself a feminist, but this has gone off into "who cares?" territory.

On the one hand: Mike Huckabee, a person with very real potential authority and influence over the policy he is talking about, whether directly or by influencing voters, saying that insurance should not fund birth control for women because it's somehow insulting to women to "give" them "free" "handouts", and that Democrats are the ones waging a war on women with such coverage.

On the other: writer who writes for a magazine about ridiculously wealthy people who don't deserve their billion dollars, implies that a woman also might not deserve her billion dollars.

Hmmm.
posted by Foosnark at 6:48 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Ew.
posted by limeonaire at 6:56 PM on January 23


Yes, I'd ask it about a man - or a woman.

People, male or female, don't earn a billion dollars from zero dollars when they begin earning their way in life. Still, some get there and most don't - there are a thousand variables that determine how it goes.

The sexism angle is getting tiresome enough as it is. When it erupts in something this ridiculous, it's worse than tiresome.
posted by aryma at 7:01 PM on January 23


IndigoJones: "she was the one who figured out that advertising was the way to make the site profitable. Call it a no-brainer if you like, but the genius founders apparently missed it. "

There was a recent Zuck hagiography that had this wonderful vignette from the Facebook coalface:
"We pulled the lever, but this time, it didn't work," recalls one senior employee about 2012's first quarter.

Just before Facebook went public in May 2012, Mr. Zuckerberg walked into the "aquarium" and did something that surprised everyone.

A group of Facebook engineers presented the latest mock-ups of ads for Facebook's iPad app. The ads were marooned on a separate screen—and to the right of the news feed.

The CEO quietly studied them. "Why don't we just explore ads in news feed?" he said, according to people at the meeting. Mr. Zuckerberg indicated that he would be open to the possibility of more types of ads there, including ones not tied to "likes."

"Oh, my gosh, he's actually open to it," one executive present at the meeting remembers thinking.
Ads! Right in your face! Brilliant! Promethean!

That's a billion dollars worth of work right there. Literally.
posted by meehawl at 7:49 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Apropos of nothing, given Pres. Obama's demonstrably competitive attitude, I would not be surprised he is a billionaire by age 65. Because, you know, if those other folks can do it...
posted by KokuRyu at 7:55 PM on January 23


Look at it this way: If Bloomberg had asked Kirkpatrick whether Zuckerberg did a billion dollars worth of work, do you think his entire response would've been "Guy got lucky"?

Should've been.
Mark Zuckerberg is a college drop out (albeit Harvard) who in no way did $19 billion dollars worth of work.
Sheryl Sandberg is an accomplished M.B.A. who in no way did $1 billion worth of work.

They were born on third base to begin with. Granted, did work hard from there, at least enough to secure a reasonable fortune. But after that they won the human race materialism lottery. "Lucky" ain't enough word for it. And sexism is supposed to be a factor at all? The entire thing is well past the Godzilla threshold.
'A question that never gets asked of *male* dictators “Did he earn killing millions of people?"
Sure, Isabel Perón only killed a thousand or so subversives, but does that mean she couldn't have done as well as a man?' Queen Mary got lucky burning 3X's as many heretics as Henry VIII?

Y'know, maybe not the most salient point there in terms of achievement and gender.

On the other hand, perhaps some people are taking materialism as an unmixed good. Or that billions can genuinely be earned through something other than luck. From that perspective, maybe. Sexism is pretty pervasive.
But we all know the Horatio Alger thing is crap so that says, what.
We're supposed to be willing to cede that a woman can work at being as greedy and materialistic as any man and fall ass backwards into money? Ok.

Reminds me of the Patrick Denham quote from 'The Wolf of Wall Street': "Most of the Wall Street jackasses I bust are douchebags, just like their fathers before them. But you... you, Jordan, got this way all on your own."

Ok. She got all that way on her own. Yay equality. What, that's a step up for gender equity that she's the poster child?

Reminds me of Claire Booth Luce: "Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say: 'She doesn't have what it takes,' they will say, 'Women don't have what it takes.'"
The contention is not over whether women have what it takes. But rather, what are the terms of success here? What is the "it" that it takes. Making a billion dollars?

I'd think RADM Grace Hopper, Arlene Blum or Luce herself or Betty Makoni would be someone with more worthy goals. Hell, Hillary Clinton (might differ on some topics, but she has my respect) is a better example and she's a politician.

The last plausible "self-made" story I heard was William Kamkwamba, not that clean water, malaria prevention and wind and solar power is as valuable work as advertising. But y'know.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:15 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Behind every great fortune lies a crime.
posted by bukvich at 8:32 PM on January 23


I apologize, but really . . . does it beg any question? yowch.
posted by mangasm at 11:11 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Behind every great fortune lies a crime.

The biggest candidate for Facebook's is that Zuckerberg wholesale ripped the whole thing off from his employers, I guess, which is sketch as fuck but not the biggest deal in the history of crimes in the world.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:21 PM on January 23


Well, she was the one who figured out that advertising was the way to make the site profitable. Call it a no-brainer if you like, but the genius founders apparently missed it.

I would have told Zuckerberg to start selling ad space for far less than a billion dollars worth of stock options.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:16 AM on January 24


She wasn't paid a billion dollars, so raging about her paycheck vs. an employee's check is meaningless. FB's stock closed at $58.61 yesterday. If only we'd all bought in years ago.

Facebook's IPO price was about $38/share, if memory serves, which means that "we" would have not even doubled our investment.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:03 AM on January 24


It's an utterly pointless question to ask of any entrepreneurial activity whether someone "earned it".

One of the great appeals of being an entrepreneur, as opposed to say a doctor or a plumber, is that your earnings are not limited to how much time you put in. Nor are they necessarily limited to your talent or expertise, although these help. They derive from the success of your business.

For that you accept risk and the fickle hand of fate. At the early stage, investors want a 10x return, which gives you an idea of how many entrepreneurs don't get paid for their time, effort, expertise etc.

Now, whether Sandberg deserves to be worth what she is, which is fundamentally a question about asset distribution and wealth equality. That's an interesting question.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:30 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


Yeah, to hell with facebook. If we're going to play the absurd hypothetical stock market game, I'll take all the Apple stock, thank you.
posted by cj_ at 3:52 AM on January 24


Apropos of nothing, given Pres. Obama's demonstrably competitive attitude, I would not be surprised he is a billionaire by age 65. Because, you know, if those other folks can do it...

I would be utterly shocked. Mitt Romney is not even a billionaire. You get to be a billionaire by the fruits of capital, not labor. That's the essence of why the 1% south of the top .1% have more in common with the 99% than they think. It's the difference between someone who works for their living and one whose money (or in Sandberg's case, vested stock and options) works for them.

Don't get me wrong, Obama is rich and is likely to remain wealthy, but I cannot imagine him a billionaire.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:50 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


How To Successfully “Neg” Facebook <snicker>
posted by jeffburdges at 5:19 AM on January 25


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