Facebook has announced a commitment to develop the digital skills of 1000 New Zealand businesswomen by the end of 2019.

As part of the pledge, Facebook will run in-person training programmes, offer online classes and partner with local organisations to help teach digital skills in their communities.

125 years ago today, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. This was, of...

Posted by Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The announcement, made on the social media platform by the company's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, coincided with New Zealand's celebration of the 125th anniversary of women being given the right to vote.

Sandberg has been a strong campaigner for gender equality and women's rights in business through her organisation Leanin.org, running numerous campaigns to empower women in the workforce.


"The women of New Zealand have long made significant contributions across politics, business, and society. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is proof of this in so many ways," Sandberg said in a statement to the Herald.

"At Facebook we want to help empower even more women in New Zealand. That's why we're training 1000 women entrepreneurs in digital skills by the end of 2019 so they can grow and thrive and continue to make a difference.

"When women succeed, we all win."

This is not the first time Sandberg has expressed admiration for Ardern, having previously written a glowing review to accompany the Prime Minister's inclusion in Time magazine's annual rundown of the world's 100 most influential people earlier this year.

While Facebook has invested locally through these training initiatives, the company has also faced strong criticism in recent years over its relatively low contribution to New Zealand tax — something which has been achieved, historically, by funnelling money through low-tax havens.

Facebook reported $14 million in revenue and paid $361,542 in tax for the 2017 financial year, despite industry sources estimating that the company could have made as much as $100m from New Zealand clients.

A Facebook spokesperson stressed that the company complies with the applicable tax law in every country in which it operates, including New Zealand.

"We've also announced that we're moving to a local selling model to provide more transparency to governments and policymakers around the world who have called for greater visibility into our revenue," the spokesperson said.

Facebook announced plans at the end of last year to start booking local revenue locally for all its worldwide offices.

Facebook's latest local training initiative will build on the company's "Boost your town" campaign, which focused on developing digital talent in the regions.

Through this, Facebook provided training to more than 800 small businesses in regional towns across Northland, Whanganui, Taranaki, Waikato and the West Coast.

Among the attendees was founder of e-commerce site Nuzzle Baby, Tessa Lindsay, who said the training provided by Facebook was a good way for entrepreneurs to get up to speed with how the platform can be used.

She said women, in particular, make the mistake of avoiding tech because of the concern that it might be too advanced for them.

"The problem is if you don't keep up, you'll be left even further behind," she told the Herald.

Her advice was for Kiwis to find ways to upskill wherever they can.