The head of an investment firm with a stake in Facebook said in an op-ed Monday that the tech company rejects her concerns, one of which is the gender pay gap, because she’s “not nice.”
Natasha Lamb, managing partner of Arjuna Capital, attended Facebook’s most recent shareholder meeting in late May and claims her questions to executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, fell on deaf ears. She said afterwards, however, she was able to speak directly to Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications.
“He told me that the company was not engaging with me because I’m ‘not nice,'” Lamb wrote in the Financial Times, describing the comment and the overall treatment that day as sexist. “Other companies take our concerns seriously and have spoken to me at length. Facebook is the only one that has not.”
Facebook denies what Lamb describes as her receiving “the cold shoulder.”
“Elliot has already apologized to Natasha Lamb,” Facebook spokeswoman Vanessa Chan, who said she also attended the meeting, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As she acknowledges herself, Facebook has engaged with her several times on these issues — in 2016, 2017 and 2018, including two days before the recent shareholder meeting.”
Lamb, however, doesn’t seem to appreciate the apology she received, because, among other things, the piece of correspondence included the note, “I shouldn’t have expressed myself — and should never express myself — in ways that can correctly be interpreted as insulting or offensive,” according to her own account.
“While Mr. Schrage’s comments ‘can correctly be interpreted as insulting or offensive,’ the larger point is that Facebook is not engaging in meaningful conversations with its investors and in this case Mr. Schrage said they were not doing so because I am ‘not nice,'” she continued.
And Lamb said it’s not just her who is being allegedly silenced.
“Facebook already has a history of dismissing the views of its independent shareholders,” Lamb claimed in the opinion piece.
Justin Danhof, director of the free enterprise project, confronts big corporate executives during shareholder meetings all across the country to hold them accountable and to try to ensure that they are using investors’ money to the best of their ability.
He also went to the Facebook shareholder meeting and added his own take on the situation he saw play out.
“She [Lamb] was out of line for many reasons. She went way beyond her proposals and was out of order,” Danhof told TheDCNF, explaining that when someone goes up to ask a question, it’s not just to gripe or air grievances. “Facebook let her behave inappropriately. They gave her leeway. Not the other way around.”
He said Facebook is average relative to the larger industry’s responsiveness and engagement with shareholders, like the ones he represents.
“Some companies are completely silent. Some way more responsive. Facebook is no better, no worse than the average company,” Danhof continued. “They could do a little more. Her [Lamb’s] argument about Facebook having more engagement with investors is valid.”
Danhof suspects Lamb might have been associated with a woman who allegedly went out of turn in the first moments of the meeting and clamorously demanded Zuckerberg step down as head of the company. That instance was widely reported in the media, as the woman was eventually kicked out for “repeated interruptions.” (RELATED: Shareholders Grill Zuckerberg At Latest Meeting)
“Other women at the AGM were also silenced, although I cannot be sure it was based on gender,” Lamb wrote in the FT piece. “The first woman to speak did so out of turn, and was escorted out of the meeting. At the end of the meeting, a lone woman remained at the microphone to ask a final question, completely unacknowledged and ignored.”
Alleging she “was dismissed in a sexist way for trying to call Facebook out on problems that are specifically related to gender,” Lamb equated the “whole gathering” and the company to “an occupying force” since there were employees “wearing blue T-shirts” trying to keep everything in order.
“These were simply employee volunteers who were available to attending shareholders if they had questions about Facebook products or to hand out extra ballots,” Chan told TheDCNF.
Conservatives, libertarians and the like have long complained about Facebook’s apparent ideological bent, something Danhof asked Zuckerberg and other leaders during the shareholder meeting.
He said he gets good engagement with a lot companies because he asks questions and floats proposals in a fair and respectful way, rather than having a “temper tantrum” — a phrase he thinks will likely stoke unfair thoughts of sexism.
“If she wanted to have a true dialogue and engage — some people had a constructive 5- to 7-minute back-and-forth with Facebook executives — she could have worded it very differently,” Danhof said.
“Once you piss off the liberal network in the corporate world, it’s over,” he continued. “Facebook had a lot of issues before, but they were generally considered a darling company that helped [former President] Barack Obama get elected. Arjuna Capital is the face of a liberal investment firm, and they are now all of the sudden upset at Facebook because a few Russians purchased some ads and their candidate of choice failed to campaign in a few key states.”
While Lamb said it wasn’t clear if women were silenced because of their gender, she claims sexism, specifically because her questions weren’t answered and since she interpreted Schrage’s remark as “patronising.”
“She is doing a great disservice to true sexism every day by falsely claiming it in this instance,” Danhof said. “Those who suffer under true sexist bosses or superiors or sexism in general should be outraged.”
As noted by Lamb, Facebook has been hit with “scandal after scandal” — the varying severity of which is debatable — causing many to perceive the company as one that puts profits over its users and their personal data.
Lamb’s op-ed and its litany of complaints over how the shareholder meeting went epitomizes this growing distaste, even hatred, of a company that was once way more widely beloved. But it could also signal that Facebook is becoming, or has already become, the punching bag of choice for those on the left end of the political spectrum, whether fair or not.
The article has been updated to include Lamb’s statements sent to TheDCNF.
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