Sheryl Sandberg is latest female billionaire to shift focus to philanthropy: ‘We’ll be able to do more, more quickly’

Sheryl Sandberg is latest female billionaire to shift focus to philanthropy: 'We’ll be able to do more, more quickly'
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Sheryl Sandberg’s departure from Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc.
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puts her on a growing list of female billionaires who have recently turned their attention to philanthropy.

Sandberg wrote Wednesday in a Facebook post that she would be leaving after 14 years at the company and will be “focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women.”

She was apparently referring to the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade and a desire to protect reproductive rights as abortion laws around the country grow more restrictive, according to an interview with Fortune.

Sandberg’s current charitable activities include the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, a private operating foundation that runs two initiatives: LeanIn.Org and Option B.Org.

LeanIn.org, named after Sandberg’s best-selling book on women in the workplace, “empowers women to achieve their ambitions,” according to the foundation’s latest IRS filing.

Option B.Org, started in the wake of the unexpected death of Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, seeks to help people who’ve experienced adversity and loss, including survivors of abuse and sexual assault. The foundation also gives scholarships to graduates of KIPP schools, a network of charter schools in low-income neighborhoods, according to its most recent tax filing.

“We’re thrilled that Sheryl will be able to lean into the work of the foundation,” said Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.org. “Sheryl brought new energy to the conversation about women’s leadership, and she founded LeanIn.Org to do her part to advance women in the workplace. With Sheryl’s leadership, we’ve spent the last nine years working tirelessly to support the women in our global Circles community and break down the biases and barriers that hold women back. With more of Sheryl’s insights and energy, we’ll be able to do more, more quickly, and that’s exciting.”

Sandberg, with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion, according to Forbes, will join other high-profile women who’ve intensified their focus on philanthropy of late. The list includes Amazon
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founder Jeff Bezos’s former wife, MacKenzie Scott, and Microsoft
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co-founder Bill Gates’s ex-wife, Melinda French Gates. Following their divorces, each stepped up their philanthropic activity. Scott has handed out more than $12 billion in grants over the past few years to organizations across the U.S., most recently giving a $122.6 million grant to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. 

French Gates, who helped launch the Giving Pledge with her then-husband in 2010, reportedly said earlier this year that she will no longer be giving the bulk of her fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and will instead divide her resources among other philanthropic initiatives, including her own Pivotal Ventures company.

Scott has been a supporter of Planned Parenthood, and gave the reproductive-services organization its largest-ever single gift, $275 million, earlier this year. French Gates has helped provide access to birth control worldwide through her work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but the foundation doesn’t fund abortions directly.

Women-focused organizations receive a relatively small share of charitable dollars in the U.S. Just $8.2 billion in donations (1.9% of all charitable giving in the U.S.) went to organizations dedicated to women and girls in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, according to research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

That’s “a fraction” of the dollars “received by organizations in traditional nonprofit subsectors like education, health, and the arts,” the WPI report noted. (The research was funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.)

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