The Secretary of the U.S. Navy, Ray Mabus, has reportedly chosen Sheryl Sandberg to sponsor and christen the newest U.S. submarine, the USS Massachusetts, according to NBC. Mabus and Sandberg have a professional relationship that reportedly dates back several years.
Another NBC article reports that, historically, women who were “wives of senior officers or politicians with close ties to the Navy” tended to do most ship and submarine christening. Women who christen ships are known as sponsors; they are said to “imbue” a vessel with their unique personalities.
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, according to Yahoo! Finance. Her late husband, Dave Goldberg, was a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and chief executive of SurveyMonkey. He was found beside a treadmill with fatal head trauma at a resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, where he was reportedly staying with Sandberg in May 2015. There was said to be no criminal investigation, according to the BBC.
Sandberg is not the wife of any famous or influential military or government officials. Besides her executive leadership role with Facebook, Sandberg is known for her 2013 book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
“Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry,” the book’s synopsis with Amazon reads. “This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives.”
A spokesperson for Navy Secretary Mabus, Captain Patrick McNally, stated that the secretary wished to build connections between the “American public and their Navy.”
“Expanding the variety of people who serve as sponsors is another avenue to strengthen that connection,” McNally was said to state with regard to Sandberg’s appointment as the sponsor of the USS Massachusetts.
Mabus and Sandberg are reported to have cultivated a relationship that has culminated in the navy “tripling” the amount of time given to women in the military for maternity leave and the secretary visiting the chief operating officer at her office California.
Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Senator from Connecticut, stated that Sandberg has been chosen for the honor based on the merits of her own accomplishments, not because she is the “partner or spouse” of someone else.
Sandberg is also credited with the founding of Lean In, a non-profit group aimed at helping women form “circles” to aid in attaining goals. The Department of Defense has been reported to make use of the circles and has partnered with Sandberg’s group to learn more. The Navy had a ban in place on women serving aboard U.S. submarines, which it reportedly abolished in 2010.
"I am a feminist. I've been female for a long time now. I'd be stupid not to be on my own side." -Dr. Maya Angelou pic.twitter.com/J2BinP368j— Lean In (@LeanInOrg) November 9, 2015
There may be somewhat of a geographic connection as well. Sheryl Sandberg graduated from Harvard University, which is located in Boston. The new submarine is named the USS Massachusetts. It is noted that the president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust, was chosen as sponsor for the USS Vermont.
First Lady Michelle Obama is the sponsor of the USS Illinois. Jeanne Warner, the wife of U.S. Senator from Virginia, John Warner, is the sponsor of the USS John Warner, according to the Society of Sponsors of the U.S. Navy. Former First Lady Laura Bush is the sponsor of the USS Texas.
U.S. Representative Joe Courtney of Connecticut was quoted stating that he hoped that, as the public face of the submarine for its lifetime, Sandberg would be able to “inspire young girls to pursue careers in science and technology.”
“Having a high-profile person like her, I think, really sends a very powerful message,” Courtney was quoted with regard to Sandberg’s appointment as submarine sponsor.
[Feature Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]