Facebook chief warns of harassment ‘backlash’

Sheryl Sandberg says male bosses could be reluctant to take on female staff

By Ajay Nair, News Reporter

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has warned of a "backlash" against women in the workplace following recent high-profile sexual harassment scandals.

In a revealing Facebook post, the businesswoman said she had already heard "rumblings" that male business bosses were becoming reluctant to take on women over fears their companies could become embroiled in disputes.

She said "too many workplaces lack clear policies about how to handle accusations of sexual harassment", before calling for clear principles and policies to be put in place.

Ms Sandberg suggested training sessions on proper workplace behaviour, establishing an investigation process and taking all claims seriously while pursuing quick and decisive action.

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

The comments come following an outpouring of victims speaking out about sexual harassment after high-profile sexual misconduct scandals involving Hollywood's Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.

She praised the movement but said it was still not enough as she said more had to be done in the workplace.

The Facebook executive said she herself had experienced harassment while doing her job but not by anyone she worked for.

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The 48-year-old said on each occasion the harasser had more power than she did – something she said was "not a coincidence".

"I have experienced sexual harassment in the form of unwanted sexual advances in the course of doing my job," she said.

"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.

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"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.

"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."

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