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- In a wide-ranging interview with Business Insider, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg commented on inequality in America during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- The pandemic is exposing, and making worse, access to healthcare, education, and food, Sandberg said.
- It’s up to a host of actors, including wealthy Americans like herself, to take action, according to the business leader.
- Her comments come at a time when confidence in the US government falls below confidence in NGOs, the media, and business leaders, with business leaders scoring the highest in terms of competence, Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer shows.
- This article is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The novel coronavirus has not only exposed underlying inequality in the US — it’s made it worse — and it may be the responsibility of the richest Americans to help solve the crisis.
That’s according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who spoke with Business Insider editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell in a wide-ranging interview on inequality, the pandemic, and the tech giant’s operations to battle misinformation.
“Inequality is very real, and it’s been very real for a really long time. There are huge differences in access to healthcare. There are huge differences in access to education. There are huge differences in access to food,” she told Shontell. “Any time systems get put under pressure, there’s a crisis. Those differences get massively exacerbated.”
The novel coronavirus has heightened much of the inequality in the US. While the US has a shortage of tests for COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus), wealthy Americans have been securing personal tests by paying doctors upwards of $1,500.
Upper-middle class and wealthy Americans are largely able to work remotely, Americans with less education and lower incomes are far more likely either to have to keep showing up at their workplaces, a new survey by Axios and polling company Ipsos shows. This puts them at a higher risk of contracting the disease. Some families don’t have access to reliable internet, which means online learning for children and working remotely difficult or impossible.
In addition, a record 3.3 million people, many from low-wage jobs in the service and hospitality industries, filed for unemployment for the week ending March 21, toppling the previous record from 1982, during the 1980s recession. Before the crisis, a Bankrate survey found that four in 10 Americans would have to borrow money to cover a $1,000 emergency.
Americans are not relying on the government alone to solve the crisis, research shows, and they might not be relying on it much at all. In Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer, a survey of 34,000 people published in January 2020, respondents ranked the government, NGOs, and the media in terms of competency and ethicalness. The government received the worst score, labeled the most unethical and least competent of the four actors.
According to Sandberg, the pandemic requires the cooperation of a host of actors.
“Individuals, business leaders, leaders at any organization, individual people, businesses, and the government. We all have to do our part,” she said.
And that includes wealthy Americans standing up and doing their part, according to Sandberg. In just a handful of days, she raised more than $8 million dollars for local food banks by calling up friends and colleagues like Facebook’s CTO, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Nike CEO John Donahoe, venture capitalists Bill Gurley and Vinod Khosla, and Intuit co-founder Scott Cook. She also launched and matched a Facebook fundraiser for upwards of $300,000.
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan committed $25 million to help fund coronavirus treatments and research. Facebook is also giving $100 million to small businesses and $100 million to media companies that get hit hard by the virus’ economic impact.
“I think everyone has responsibility, I feel tremendously responsible,” Sandberg said.
“Anyone who has the ability to help, the means to help, needs to jump in, and we need to do more than we’ve ever done before. I am doing more than I’ve ever done before.”