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Sheryl Sandberg Sits Down with NC Chamber Chair Sepi Saidi

Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, founder of Lean In and Option B, visited the Triangle last week. She joined NC Chamber Chair Sepi Saidi, CEO of SEPI, Inc., for a fireside chat at Market Hall in Raleigh on Thursday.

NC Chamber CEO Gary Salamido introduced the two powerhouse women sharing why this event matters to our state’s business community. “Every day at the chamber, we aggregate the voices of large and small businesses to make sure that North Carolina is a great place to live, work, and raise your family,” he said. “We want you, your businesses, your employees, and their families, to thrive here.”

North Carolina’s diverse business community is a balanced ecosystem with businesses of all sizes benefiting from symbiotic relationships. Meta’s efforts to provide the small businesses across our state with tools to grow their reach is important – small businesses and their success are an integral part of North Carolina’s growing economy.

Here are some of the top takeaways from Sepi Saidi’s fireside chat with Sheryl Sandberg:

Why North Carolina?

Sepi kicked off the chat asking Sheryl what it was about North Carolina that attracted her attention.

Sheryl said, “Obviously you can’t go everywhere so you have to go to the places that matter the most — and this area has been a leader in technology and a real source of innovation around the world.” She went on to discuss the investment Meta, a Cornerstone member of the NC Chamber, has made in North Carolina through its data center, which operates one hundred percent on renewable energy.

COVID’s Disproportionate Impact on Women

Given Sepi’s priority to advance women in the workplace and beyond, it was no surprise that she asked Sheryl about the disproportionate impact COVID has had on women.

Sheryl shared that not only was COVID a health crisis and an economic crisis, but it was also a crisis for gender equality. She stated, twice, that women’s participation in the labor force, in the United States, is back to the same level it was in 1988. COVID has erased decades of progress on women in the workforce.

She went on to explain that women have always worked a double shift, working out of the home and then coming back to the home and often doing the majority of childcare and housework. She thinks women during the pandemic were working a double, double shift. There was the additional burden of taking care of kids who might be home from school and taking care of elderly parents. It hit women hard, and it hit women of color even harder. Now we are seeing women mass exiting the workforce.

As Sheryl said, and Sepi agreed, this is not acceptable because we know that our workplaces are better when there is diversity. “When there are more voices of people of color, when there are more voices of people with an LGBTQ lens and background, when there are more voices of people that represent diversity, including more women and women of color, we produce better products. We produce better services. We can serve the community that we represent. And so I’m here today, again, ringing the alarm bell that we need to make work work for women.”

On Resilience

The fireside chat closed with Sepi asking Sheryl to share her advice on building resilience.

In 2015, Sheryl lost her husband very suddenly. A friend told her that option A was gone so it was time to kick the you-know-what out of option B. Today, following the last couple years, almost everyone is living some form of their option B. None of us expected this pandemic and the shifts it would require.

Sheryl’s challenge is, “how do you make the most of that option B? How do you find that resilience?” She declared that the hard times are what make us stronger. “No one ever got up, had a day filled with, popcorn, ice cream, and amusement parks and came out on the other side a stronger person, “said Sheryl. “Those are great activities…I’m for all of them, but they don’t touch that core in us that needs to grow and strengthen. It is the hard times where we grow, where we strengthen, where we find out who we really are. I think that happened to all of us as individuals through this pandemic. And I think that’s what’s happening for businesses too.”

If your small business is interested in learning more about the small business tools Meta has to offer, the Meta Boost program (formerly Boost with Facebook) is hosting a free in-person training event for small businesses of the Triangle on Wednesday, June 22 at 10 a.m. at Market Hall located at 214 E. Martin Street in Raleigh. Register today to learn more about how you can use Facebook and Instagram tools and resources to grow your business.