As of Tuesday, there is one more lady billionaire in the world. For the New Yorker, Vauhini Vara talks about why it matters:
To the extent that Sandberg’s billionaire status got attention, the conversation centered on whether she deserved it. “Did she do a billion dollars-worth of work?” the journalist David Kirkpatrick asked when interviewed by Bloomberg. “I don’t know.” It was a weird question: to quantify a billion dollars’ worth of work seems as quixotic as counting how much wood a woodchuck could chuck. Some protested that it smacked of sexism: would a male C.O.O.’s wealth be thus questioned? It was also far from the most interesting aspect of Sandberg’s financial ascendance.
Okay I just wanted to pull that section because the thought of someone ever doing “a billion dollars-worth” of work is hilarious. What would you have to do for that? Cure cancer? Save the planet? Moving on.
Vara points out that there are 1426 people on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, and only 138 are women. Less than 10%! She then discusses the whole money equals (or can equal) political influence, and while Sandberg is certainly a polarizing figure, she does “[use] her wealth for philanthropic and political purposes, has been vocal about her interest in improving women’s economic prospects”:
In the future, she may run for political office. If so, she has money enough to self-finance a campaign, if she so chooses. Until then, she can—and surely will—use her financial clout to persuade today’s politicians to support causes that she cares about: among others, policies that improve women’s lives, rather than setting them back.
What makes Sandberg’s milestone worth noting, then, isn’t that the markets have rewarded her for her work at Facebook, but that one more woman—and one who is both uniquely influential in business and uniquely interested in women’s issues—has been added to the short list of the world’s female billionaires. Why should Sheryl Sandberg’s billion dollars matter to anyone but Sheryl Sandberg? Because in a society that’s become increasingly unequal, it might help if the wealthiest people start to look a little more like everyone else.