Top 10 Most Senior Women at Facebook

A look at the women that help Facebook continue to dominate big tech.

Since the founding of Facebook in 2004, the company has grown from a college networking website to one of the Big Five tech companies, worth over $970 billion today. But Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook could not have reached this level of success without the many talented and accomplished women not just at the executive level, but across the entire company. Here’s a closer look at the top 10 most senior women working at Facebook.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer

Photo Credit: Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg is not just the most senior woman at Facebook. She is the company’s most senior individual besides, of course, CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Sandberg has served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Facebook since 2008 and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2012, becoming the first woman on Facebook’s board.

Long before joining Facebook, Sandberg graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in economics at Harvard College in 1991. She later also graduated from Harvard Business School with an MBA with highest distinction in 1995. After business school, Sandberg served as the Chief of Staff for Larry Summers, then-President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury, from 1996 to 2001.

Sandberg once said she had never even expected to work in the private sector. However, her views changed after working in the government:

“Even though I had once thought I would never work in the private sector, I recognized how entrepreneurs were changing the world. I realized that I wanted to work in technology because it had the promise of making the world a better and more connected place.” -Sheryl Sandberg, Newsweek, 2008

Upon leaving her government career, Sandberg joined the up-and-coming Google, helping to grow their ad and sales team drastically as their VP of Sales and Operations.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met Sheryl Sandberg at a Christmas party in 2007, where they instantly found each other in deep conversations. For the next few months, Zuckerberg and Sandberg met once or twice per week to discuss their views and aspirations for the future, until Zuckerberg felt that Sandberg would be the right choice as his right-hand executive. In March 2008, Sandberg joined Facebook and has been with the company ever since.

During her first few years at Facebook, Sandberg took charge of Facebook’s main weakness: at the time, it was nowhere near profitable. She led the company in a push toward discreet advertising on the platform (a practice that is widely criticized nowadays). Thanks in part to Sandberg’s leadership, Facebook was finally profitable by 2010.

Apart from her work at Facebook, Sandberg has authored and co-authored several books, including “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” with Neil Scovell and “Option B” with Adam Grant. She also founded the Sheryl Sandberg & David Goldberg Foundation, named in part after her late husband, which aims to “build a more equal and resilient world.”

Nowadays, as Facebook continues to receive increasing criticism over its handling of user data and hate speech, Sandberg has been largely responsible for defending the company’s practices. In 2018, she publicly apologized for the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which it became apparent that Facebook users’ data had been obtained without explicit permission for political advertising purposes.

Sandberg faced criticism and calls to resign after she denied Facebook’s involvement in the attacks on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Critics see the “Stop the Steal” Facebook group, which grew to over 300,000 members the day it formed, as one of the catalysts behind the attacks.

Despite these controversies, Sandberg remains the second most powerful executive at Facebook and continues to be one of Facebook’s lead decision-makers.

Jennifer Newstead, General Counsel

Photo Credit: Facebook

Jennifer Newstead is one of Facebook’s newest executives, serving as the company’s General Counsel since June 2019 following the departure of former General Counsel Colin Stretch. The General Counsel is in charge of the company’s legal functions not just in the U.S., but also around the world.

Newstead boasts a long and successful career in the public sector, serving most recently under former President Donald Trump as the Legal Advisor of the United States Department of State from January 2018 to April 2019. In this position, Newstead oversaw domestic and international legal affairs affecting U.S. foreign policy.

Newstead graduated with a degree in government from Harvard University in 1991 and a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1994.

Before joining Facebook, Newstead was a partner at the international law firm Davis Polk & Wardell from 2006 to 2018. There, she represented clients globally in “cross-border regulatory, enforcement and litigation matters.”

She also held numerous other positions in law, including her work as a “General Counsel of the White House Office of Management and Budget, as a Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, and as an Associate White House Counsel.”

In her pre-Facebook work, Newstead is known for helping to draft the Patriot Act during her time at the Justice Department and serving as an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law. Relative to her peers, Newstead has kept a relatively low profile, not publishing books or speaking much to the media.

At Facebook, it’s expected that Newstead will lead Facebook’s efforts to defend itself against several legal controversies, including its mishandling of user data and accusations of intentional monopolization.

Maxine Williams, Chief Diversity Officer

Photo Credit: Facebook

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Maxine Williams immigrated to the United States at 16. A few years later, she attended Yale University, where she got a BA in Caribbean Studies before attending Oxford University to study law. There, she was a Rhodes Scholar. In a personal piece for Lean In, one of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s philanthropic initiatives, Williams described her motivation for reaching high goals such as applying to Yale:

“The adage that is often heard in Trinidad is ‘just try a ting!’ In other words, assume no limit to your potential to overcome obstacles and give every challenge your best shot.” -Maxine Williams, Lean In

Williams has had experiences in multiple sectors throughout her professional life. For some time, she returned to her native Trinidad and Tobago to be an attorney in criminal, civil, and industrial courts. Additionally, she worked as a lecturer at the University of the West Indies and even worked as a broadcast journalist from 1999 to 2012. She also worked in multiple human rights organizations, including the Caribbean Human Rights Network, where she served as a Senior Manager for two years.

Williams joined Facebook in 2013, where she reports directly to COO Sheryl Sandberg as a C-level executive. As the Chief Diversity Officer, she manages diversity in “people, product and policy spheres” — that is, diversity at all levels and aspects of Facebook.

“Maxine’s team works toward increasing the cognitive diversity — different ways of thinking based on different backgrounds, experiences and information — of all Facebook teams and integrating diverse perspectives into policy and product development.” -Facebook

Williams’s work at Facebook continues to grow as diversity continues to be crucial to the company’s success. In an interview with GlassDoor in 2018, Williams said “We can only build communities as strong as we want to build them, if we have more diversity here.”

Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, Policy

Photo Credit: Facebook

Before joining Facebook in September of 2011, Erin Egan had already established an incredibly successful career building a privacy and data security law practice at Covington & Burling. However, after 15 years at the company, it was time for a change. But it wasn’t an easy decision, as Egan recalls in this Lean In memoir:

“I had several good reasons for hesitating, considering the hard work I'd put into getting to where I was at the time. But someone very wise helped me realize that I was leaning back. She sent me a poster from Facebook headquarters the day after my interview. The poster said, ‘What would you do if you weren't afraid?’ I knew my answer.” -Erin Egan, Lean In

Egan went on to serve as the Vice President of US Public Policy for Facebook before being promoted to her current position as Chief Privacy Officer. As VP of Public Policy, she was in charge of domestic policy engagements with government regulators and policymakers. She also helped to develop Facebook’s “privacy by design program.”

Now, in her current role, she is the head of the company’s Washington, D.C. office and leads the global privacy and data policy team. She now collaborates with policymakers, regulators and other experts from around the globe to ensure Facebook’s adherence to privacy laws and ethics.

Fidji Simo, Head of Facebook app

Photo Credit: Facebook

Fidji Sino is in charge of the development and strategy of the Facebook mobile app and all of its features, “including News Feed, Stories, Groups, Video, Marketplace, Gaming, News, Dating, Ads and more,” according to her company bio.

Before joining Facebook in 2011, Simo attended the HEC School of Management in Paris and the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles. She went on to be a Strategy Manager at eBay from 2007 to 2011.

Apart from her work at Facebook, Simo previously served on the board of the L.A. Dance Project and Cirque du Soleil. Since Jan. 2021, she has served on the board of Instacart. She also founded Women in Product, an organization that brings together women in the product field to advocate for a more diverse workplace.

At Facebook, Fidji was a major proponent of bringing video to the forefront of the Facebook experience, including autoplay in the News Feed. She was also charged with the task of developing mobile-friendly advertising interfaces and the overall monetization of Facebook’s mobile platform.

Marne Levine, Chief Business Officer

Photo Credit: Vox

Marne Levine was promoted to Chief Business Officer in June 2021 from her previous role as Facebook’s Vice President of Global Partnerships, Business and Corporate Development. Before that, Levine was Facebook’s Vice President of Global Public Policy and Instagram’s first COO.

Levine attended Harvard Business School and then went on to work for the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 1993-2000. Like COO Sheryl Sandberg, Marne Levine also worked for Larry Summers, but a few years after Sandberg while he was the president of Harvard University. She also served under former President Barack Obama as the Chief of Staff for the National Economic Council from 2009-2010.

Now, as the company’s first Chief Business Officer, Levine will oversee Facebook’s advertising businesses and global partnerships. As Facebook shifts its focus from its original banner ads, Levine will facilitate a shift to nontraditional advertising opportunities.

Naomi Gleit, Vice President of Social Good

Photo Credit: Business Insider

Naomi Gleit joined Facebook on July 18, 2005, making her Facebook’s longest-tenured employee besides CEO Mark Zuckerberg. While attending Stanford University, Gleit was one of the first users of the original Facebook and said she “signed up immediately and was soon obsessed with the site.” In a Lean In memoir, she described her eagerness to start her career at Facebook:

“I made several trips to the office to introduce myself, express my desire to work for Facebook (doing anything!), and to see if there were any opportunities at that time. This was in addition to the several emails I sent to different Facebook employees reiterating the same message. It was definitely uncharacteristic for me to be so forward, but I had rarely felt this passionately about something.” -Naomi Gleit, Lean In

Her persistence paid off: she finally joined the company as a marketing associate. Today, as the VP of Social Good, she has been in charge of popular efforts such as Facebook’s native support for fundraisers.

Lori Goler, Vice President of People

Photo Credit: Business Insider

Lori Goler joined Facebook thanks to one fateful phone call with COO Sheryl Sandberg in 2008:

“I had met Sheryl socially, but did not know her well. I was oddly surprised when I was able to reach her. I had no idea what Facebook needed. I only knew I wanted to do something that mattered. I figured I didn’t have much time, so I launched right in: "Sheryl, what is your biggest problem and can I help solve it?" We later laughed that I hadn’t even taken time to exchange pleasantries.” -Lori Goler, Lean In

Since then, Goler has been in charge of Facebook’s Human Resources and Recruiting departments, overseeing the growth and retention of Facebook’s thousands of employees.

Before her career at Facebook, she attended Harvard Business School and Yale University and worked at The Walt Disney Company and eBay.

Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management

Photo Credit: Quartz

Monika Bickert, a Rice University and Harvard Law School alum, joined Facebook in 2012 as their Lead Security Counsel. Before joining the company, she worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice for ten years, and as a Legal Advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

At Facebook, Bickert manages a team that focuses on Facebook’s posting, advertising, and developer policies around the world. She has served as the company’s Head of Global Policy Management since 2013. During her time, she has taken on global criticism for Facebook’s roles in crises such as misinformation in the Philippines and genocide in Myanmar.

Ning Li, Vice President of Engineering and Product Group Lead

Photo Credit: Facebook Org Chart

Ning Li joined Facebook as a software engineer in 2009, working herself up the corporate ladder to become the Vice President of Engineering and Product Group Lead in 2020.

Prior to joining Facebook, Li studied computer science at Zhejiang University, Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and worked as a software engineer at IBM’s Almaden Research Center.

Since joining Facebook, Li has proven herself as a self-made success. She first worked as a Software Engineer, then as an Engineering Manager, then as an Engineering Director, then as the Vice President of Engineering, and finally, her current position.

Today, Li leads the core Ads Product Group, which works to enhance users’ advertising experiences across Facebook’s platforms.

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