Yesterday, Facebook announced that Sheryl Sandberg, its chief operating officer for four years, will be the first woman on its board of directors. Sandberg is the second-in-command at Facebook, after CEO and funder Mark Zuckerberg; she was previously a high-ranking executive in sales and marketing at Google and, before that, the chief of staff for Lawrence H. Summers at the Treasury Department.
As Zuckerberg said in a statement, “Sheryl has been my partner in running Facebook and has been central to our growth and success over the years”; he cited her “understanding of our mission and long-term opportunity, and her experience both at Facebook and on public company boards” as reasons for her being a “natural fit” for Facebook’s board.
Zero Women on the Board: A Glaring Omission
The lack of any women on Facebook’s board of directors has been routinely pointed out, especially as the social network giant has become a publicly traded company. Former customer service employee Katherine Losse’s new book, The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network, chronicles numerous “frat boy,” generally offensive shenanigans at the company in its earlier days.
As Business Week observes,
… [Sandberg's] appointment came on the same day that the Committee for Economic Development issued a report lamenting the lack of women directors in the U.S. (they held just 16 percent of Fortune 500 board seats last year) and warning that America’s inability to do something about it could harm the country’s competitiveness.
A Catalyst study has highlighted that companies with three or more women on their boards do about 43 percent better in shareholder returns. Having women on the board “can apparently inspire a company to become more committed to good causes,” says Business Week.
Prior to adding Sandberg, Facebook was in the 20 percent of the largest US companies without women on their board, even though women constitute 58 percent of Facebook users.
The response to Sandberg’s appointment to Facebook’s board has been muted and, as Business Week says, “ho-hum.” As Tech Crunch says, many thought she should have been on the board some time ago. Sandberg’s experience and connections — she has served on several public boards, including those of Starbucks and Walt Disney — and has been a leading advocate for women as leaders in the corporate workplace for years.
While cheering Sandberg’s new seat on Facebook’s board, analysts are suggesting that the company should by no means consider itself done adding women. As Gail Romero, CEO of MBA Women International, says to Business Week, what would have been really impressive” would have been if Facebook added three women directors. Indeed, some think that half of Facebook’s board of directors should be women.
In a statement, Sandberg said that
Facebook is working every day to make the world more open and connected. It’s a mission that I’m deeply passionate about, and I feel fortunate to be part of a company that is having such a profound impact in the world.
While offering her congratulations, Facebook users need to keep up the pressure on the company to keep diversifying its board whose other seven members are white and male, Zuckeberg being among them. Recent glitches like Facebook’s changing of everyone’s email to an @facebook.com one are missteps a company with Facebook’s profile — and one that users feel a deep tie to because of what they use its products for — cannot afford.
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