A recent post on Forbes.com caused quite the riot. It first referred to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg (aka right-hand woman to Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg) as Silicon Valley’s new It girl. That was one thing, and a fine thing. But when the article went beyond, comparing Sandberg to Kim Polese, former CEO and co-founder of now-defunct software company Marimba, that was quite another.
Feathers they did ruffle — namely, those of Polese herself. She responded with a follow-up guest blog post on Forbes.com that took aim at Eric Jackson, the writer of the piece, claiming that the facts were unchecked and pointing out that comparing women executives in the tech world (just because they’re such rare birds) does way more harm than it could ever do good.
Calling the post a “lazy, stereotype-ridden article,” Polese wrote that now “they” are now trying to attach all of the same stereotypes to Sandberg as they once did to her, adding:
The vacuous premise of Jackson’s article — that Sheryl is now in danger of falling into the same trap I supposedly did as CEO, neglecting the internal operations of the company in favor of focusing excessively on the external stuff — would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.
We often receive extra attention as female executives in the technology industry because there are so few of us. However, we don’t have any choice about what the press actually writes, or what the layout looks like, or the photos that are published. In other words, we behave just like our male counterparts — we just do our job.
Polese was founding product manager of Java, which she spearheaded to launch in 1995. She went on to co-found Marimba, a pioneer of Internet-based software management. In 2004, Marimba sold for $239 million, nearly 15 times its venture capital raised.
Forbes.com later removed the article, posting in its stead an apology.
Facebook itself has been criticized for not having any female board members.
Readers: Do you agree that Jackson erred by lumping Sandberg and Polese together in a comparison?