Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook parent company Meta who helped transform it from an upstart social network into a tech behemoth as one of the best-known female executives in business, is stepping down.
Sandberg, 52, said in a Facebook post Wednesday that she will be leaving the company this fall.
Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008 from Google and helped build the company’s online advertising operation into one of the internet’s most profitable businesses and expand the company’s reach outside the U.S. But her high-profile role alongside co-founder Mark Zuckerberg also made her among the most recognizable figures tied to Facebook’s various scandals, including data privacy and misinformation issues that have continued to surround the company.
Sandberg said in her Facebook post that she will continue to serve on Meta’s board of directors.
Sandberg thanked Zuckerberg and her co-workers, saying she continues to be proud of the company’s work, but also acknowledged some of the more challenging moments in recent years.
“To say it hasn’t always been easy is an understatement,” she wrote in the post. “But it should be hard. The products we make have a huge impact, so we have the responsibility to build them in a way that protects privacy and keeps people safe. Just as I believe wholeheartedly in our mission, our industry, and the overwhelmingly positive power of connecting people, I and the dedicated people of Meta have felt our responsibilities deeply.”
Facebook’s stock price dropped about 3 percent shortly after Sandberg’s announcement.
Sandberg’s role at Facebook helped elevate her to a figure of national prominence, where she has often advocated for the professional development of women. Sandberg has twice been a best-selling author. In 2013, she released “Lean In,” a book that explored the barriers facing women in the workplace — and that spawned a popular catchphrase and a movement.
And four year later, she released “Option B,” a book about grief and resilience that she co-wrote after the sudden death of her husband, tech executive Dave Goldberg.
Sandberg said in her Facebook post that she plans to spend time with her family, including getting married this summer, and focus on philanthropic work.
Sandberg came to the tech industry from an unusual place: the Clinton administration’s Treasury Department, where she worked for Secretary Larry Summers. She has frequently been asked if she might run for political office herself, but she has consistently turned down the idea and the suggestions have become less frequent as scrutiny of Facebook’s business practices has intensified.
Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that Javier Olivan, Facebook’s chief growth officer, will replace Sandberg as COO.
“When Sheryl joined me in 2008, I was only 23 years old and I barely knew anything about running a company,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We’d built a great product — the Facebook website — but we didn’t yet have a profitable business and we were struggling to transition from a small startup to a real organization.
“Sheryl architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company. She created opportunities for millions of people around the world, and she deserves the credit for so much of what Meta is today,” he said.