Twitter Board Highlights Silicon Valley’s Lack of Diversity

Social-media network plans to go public with an all-white, all-male board, but Twitter execs claim to understand the importance of gender diversity.

By Chris Hoenig

Twitter plans to go public with an all-white, all-male board of directors.Twitter is going public, valuing itself in the $10 billion to $12 billion range. And who best to control a company with that valuation? Apparently, nobody but white men.

As part of the paperwork for its initial public offering, the company has revealed its board of directors. Every single member is white. Every single member is a man. Go through Twitter’s investors and executive officers and you will find one lone woman: General Counsel Vijaya Gadde—and even Gadde is a late addition to the team, having been on the job for less than two months.

Executives say they do think it’s important to find a woman to join the board but that there’s a lack of qualified female candidates in the tech industry. However, Twitter, one of several Silicon Valley companies to publicly decline to reveal its EEO-1 data, is not your average tech company, as evidenced by the seven white men who will lead the company. It is also a media outlet, an entertainment center and one of the largest advertising platforms in the world.

The board includes some traditional tech honchos like former Netscape CFO Peter Currie and former Google executive David Rosenblatt, but it also has former News Corp. executive Peter Chernin and Peter Fenton from Benchmark Capital. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and co-founders Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey round out the board.

Costolo seemed to take the most offense to criticism of Twitter’s leadership. While the company has declined comment, Costolo slammed (on Twitter, of course) one of the sources The New York Times used in an article about the all-white board.


Qualified Women

A Yale School of Management professor told the Times that he came up with a list of 20 women qualified to sit on Twitter’s board in less than 10 minutes, and that he could easily name 20 more. After talking to several tech insiders, recruiters and academics, the Times offered its own list of 25 women. They include Joanne Bradford, President of the San Francisco Chronicle, who includes Yahoo! and Microsoft on her résumé; Intel President Renée James; AOL Brand Group Chief Executive Susan Lyne; and Geraldine Laybourne, a former executive at Nickelodeon and Disney, who has a tech-heavy résumé including board stints at EA (Electronic Arts), Symantec and children’s tech startup Kandu.

Also on the list: a board member at Google, successful advertising executives, the founder of USA Network, Time Inc.’s former chief executive officer and the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, just to name a few.

Benefits of Diversity

If Twitter’s all-white, all-male board thinks it can make appropriate decisions because its members can relate to Twitter users … think again.

Women outnumber men on Twitter, with a study putting that difference at approximately 53 percent to 47 percent. And a Pew Research study finds that about 25 percent of Twitter users are Black, even though Blacks represent only about 12.5 percent of the population in the U.S.

Is there a business benefit to having women on the board? According to a Catalyst study, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors got a far greater return on equity than those with the least, outperforming those companies by 53 percent. Return on sales was also higher (by 42 percent), as was the return on invested capital—by a whopping 66 percent.

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  • Well, I don’t see a lot of males at The View, do I? I don’t see a lot of diversity at Black Entertainment Television, Ebony Magazine, La Raza, and plenty of other places. Of course, we’re only interested in bashing White people, right? Got to make those White men seat in the back, don’t we? Sure, let’s just fire some White people for being White and replace them with women. Good idea, Luke.

    • Luke Visconti

      Note to corporate people: This is why you have to have training. I don’t think you can fix this level of ignorance, but you can at least establish standards of behavior—and then fire people too foolish to comply with them. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

    • Gregory….BET, Ebony, and The View are all produced by Major corporations like Viacom and Comcast that do have women and non-Whites on their boards in decision making positions.. Who said anything about making White men sit in the back. What’s wrong with having a Board of Directors that reflects not only the demographics of the nation, but of the people who use your products and services. BTW, if you check the record, corporations that previously had an all White, male board became more profitable after they included women and non-Whites on their boards, so I would say diversifying one’s board is good for business.

  • Juha Kuronen

    Greetings from Finland.

    Luke, just to let you know, here in Finland people(men and women) are laughing at you.
    Even the feminists giggle.
    I mean, don’t you see that these guys set up the business?
    If their firm goes down because they had only men in board, that’s their loss.
    And after gop it’s shareholders business.

    Even in Sweden nobody is this stupid…(and I don’t mean Twitter board)

    • Luke Visconti

      And where’s my invitation to discuss this in person? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Laurie Dowling

    It isn’t possible that there are no qualified women to join the Board of a social media company. As you cite, Professor Sonnenfeld was able to suggest 25 highly qualified women leaders. And if they are interested in women and people of color who are at the lower end of the age demographic that Twitter seeks to serve, that is pretty accomplishable, too. I agree, Luke, it must be lack of will and lack of understanding about the important role diversity of opinions and experience can have in discussions at the Board level. I suspect that Twitter’s new shareholders will not be exclusively white men, though this certainly does send a message about Twitter that the institutional investors should consider carefully. Thanks, Luke, for highlighting this.

  • Will Johnson

    The “LEADERS”… of any Global Corporation, Small Business, School System, Faith Community, Social/Civic Organization, local or national Governments Agency, that are “STILL” choosing to operate blindly or arrogantly ignore the value of DIVERSITY… ARE INSANE TO BELIEVE THEY WILL SURVIVE IN OUR RAPIDLY INCREASING,

  • Just lost me……I will be closing my account after this post.
    I am a Black-American living in France 30+ years and you want me to believe that more than 60+ year old rhetoric that there no qualified women and/or minorities? Better said Twitter is simply re-invoking that 148 year old U.S. Supreme Court ruling “Separate but Equal”

  • Just reminds me why I have no social media accounts. I just sit back and laugh because I know this society is not made or functioning for my benefit. My skin is the wrong color and I’m lacking a certain appendage. Can’t wait to call myself a citizen of a different country

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