I awoke to the news this morning that Sheryl Sandberg is in talks to serve as Hillary Clinton’s treasury secretary and immediately felt simultaneous waves of excitement and dread. On the one hand, I thought, Sheryl Sandberg in the Cabinet? Hell yeah! And then, well, then I thought, Cue the jokes.
“Sheryl Sandberg leaned in so far, she might’ve fallen into Hillary Clinton’s cabinet,” one article read. “HRC, please lean out on this one,” read another, followed by, “Is it appropriate to lean in to a lean-to?” You guys, we get it — Sheryl Sandberg created the Lean In campaign. For the record, though, it is an important social movement for women… not a punch line.
Still, despite the fact that I anticipated a few puns about Sandberg’s potential appointment, I honestly thought the news would be met with general approval. However, a cursory scan of social media goes to show that not everyone believes Sandberg could — or should — be Clinton’s treasury secretary.
Some people simply don’t feel she is qualified.
While others just can’t seem to wrap their head around the idea at all…
And naturally, there are your garden-variety detractors who decry the notion based on an aversion to perceived liberal values.
First of all, it’s unfair to just view Sandberg through the lens of her role as COO of Facebook or her former capacity as VP of global online sales and operations at Google. Prior to becoming the high-profile businesswoman and tech exec the world knows now, Sandberg served as chief of staff for United States Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers from 1996 to 2001.
Is Sandberg qualified? Why wouldn’t she be?
Late last year, Sandberg acted as a moderator on a panel that consisted of former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin, Henry Paulson, and Timothy Geithner. At one point, when Sandberg asked about income inequality, the three billionaires had a hearty chuckle about it.
Ha! Poor peasants. Income inequality is funny, you guys. Didn’t you get the memo? Surely Sandberg could bring as much (if not more) to the table as some of the past people in this position. So let’s take a look at these treasury secretaries and what made them tick.
Like Sandberg, Rubin graduated from Harvard summa cum laude. He later went on to receive an undergraduate degree in law from Yale Law School. The bulk of his experience prior to being appointed treasury secretary was 26 years spent in various capacities, including COO at Goldman Sachs.
Paulson, the 74th secretary of the treasury, had also served as the Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs prior to his appointment. Like Sandberg and Rubin, he was a Harvard undergrad. Although he worked as a staff assistant to the assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon for a few years in his early career, he spent the decades immediately preceding his appointment at Goldman Sachs, where he made over $500 million.
Geithner was the 75th treasury secretary. Unlike the other two, he did have quite a bit of experience with international affairs and government work when he was appointed. He spent many years working in the Treasury Department in various roles before becoming the treasury secretary.
Comparing Sandberg’s experience to these three former treasury secretaries, I’d say she stacks up pretty well. Not only does she have direct experience working for a treasury secretary, but she has a proven track record as a brilliant financial mind. She may not have logged decades working for a banking and financial services firm like Goldman Sachs, but she clearly has operated in the capacity of a financial leader at both Google and Facebook.
She is, after all, one of the wealthiest and most powerful businesswomen in the world.
So, yeah, it does feel a bit misogynistic that people are so quick to rule Sandberg out. Hers would be a historic appointment, as she would be the first woman to lead the Treasury. Considering her experience is not altogether that far off from previous (rich, white) male treasury secretaries, it seems as if the real issue people have with her experience is that it hasn’t been accrued by a man.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.