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 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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