Published 27 April 2012
By Connie Guglielmo
Facebook, preparing an initial public offering that could value the social network as high as $100 billion, has plenty of options for adding women directors to its board, say women tech executives who have offered up candidates CEO Mark Zuckerberg might consider.
At the top of the list: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s own chief operating officer.
Facebook, which filed for its IPO in February, has since been criticized by activist groups and shareholders for the lack of diversity on its board — most notably, the lack of a single women among its all male, all white directors. Those seven directors include Zuckerberg, venture capitalists Marc Andreessen, Jim Breyer and Peter Thiel, Donald Graham, chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Co., Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix Inc. and Erskine Bowles, president emeritus of University of North Carolina and former White House Chief of Staff.
Facebook isn’t the only tech company without a women on its board. Longtime tech company Adobe Systems Inc. doesn’t have any women directors, and neither do some of the companies that went public in the past year, including Pandora, Zillow, Zynga and Splunk. Meanwhile, Apple, Groupon and LinkedIn have only one woman board member.
Ultraviolet, a community of women’s rights activists, protested outside Facebook’s New York headquarters this week and submitted a petition signed by 53,000 people (collected online in 48-hours) asking Zuckerberg to add a women to the board before the proposed IPO, which is expected sometime in the next two months and which may raise $5 billion. In February, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the second-largest pension fund in the U.S., sent a letter to Facebook, chastising the company for failing to name a women director “when there is clear evidence that companies with diverse boards perform far better than companies with more homogenous boards.”
“We’re long past having to defend or explain why women should be on boards, given all the data that shows how companies with female as well as male directors perform better,” Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox Corp. and a director at Johnson & Johnson, Target and The Washington Post Co., said in a February interview with Bloomberg News. “It’s unfortunate when companies with a large percentage of women constituents don’t reflect that in their boardrooms.”
According to a 2010 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 58 percent of Facebook users are women. Facebook now has more than 900 million users and said it generated $3.7 billion in revenue in 2011.
Katrina Garnett, a longtime software executive and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley who is now CEO of social network My Little Swans, agrees the lack of women on Facebook’s board is troubling. “A lot of companies do the window-dressing board members before going public, and rarely do those kinds of members actually deliver on what you wanted as the CEO/founder,” says Garnett. “The pedigree folks like the prestige and ultimately just act as professional board members, but again, not probably adding the diversity, the value, the experience or the vision that a company like Facebook needs.”
And what they need is someone on the board who can represent more than half of their user base, said another Silicon Valley women tech executive, who asked not to be named. ”It is astonishing and unacceptable that they don’t have a woman on that board,” she said. “I feel they should have half women, not just one token woman. There are plenty of great women to invite, and they don’t need to be technologists, which is what I’ll bet is [Zuckerberg's] hang up.”
An informal poll of women tech executives in Silicon Valley yielded this list of candidates — some tech executives, some not— for Facebook’s review. Sandberg got the most votes. The rest are listed in alphabetical order.
• Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. The former Google executive has been an outspoken advocate for women in tech and plays a highly visible role in promoting Facebook. “Putting Sheryl on is a great idea, but they’re probably concerned about the ridiculous ‘points’ where investors groups ding you if you have a lot of insiders on the board,” said the unnamed tech executive.
• Jennifer Bailey, vice president, online store for Apple. A former Netscape Communications executive, not much is known about her other than she gets credit for making the online shopping experience on Apple a winner.
• Susan Barnes, former controller of the Mac division at Apple who left and co-founded NeXT Inc. with Steve Jobs. She has a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
• Sue Bostrom, former chief marketing officer of Cisco Systems. A 14-year-veteran of Cisco, Bostrom holds has an MBA from Stanford’s business school and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois. She serves on the board of Varian Medical Systems, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, and Georgetown University, and also serves on the advisory board of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
• Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox. After a three-decade career at Xerox, she was named CEO in 2009 after Anne Mulcahy stepped down. She’s the first African-American woman to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and she’s the first female CEO on the Fortune 500 to replace another female CEO. She’s also a director of American Express, a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the U.S.’s education system in science, technology, engineering and math and in March 2010, President Obama appointed her vice chair of the President’s Export Council.
• Safra Catz, president of Oracle. A longtime lieutentant to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Catz, a former investment banker, has been president of Oracle since January 2004 and a member of the board since October 2001. She also served for three-years as a member of the board of directors for HSBC Holdings, one of the world’s largest banking/financial services organizations.
• Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University. A historian of the Civil War and the American South, author, longtime professor at the University of Pennsylvania, she has a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and her master’s degree and doctoral degree from Penn. She was named the first woman president of Harvard in 2007.
• Shelly Lazarus, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather. Described as one of the most powerful women in advertising, she was also one of the first women to graduate from Columbia University with an MBA in the early 1970s. She talks about learning about the business from ad legend David Ogilvy, and was one of the first female ad executives in an industry were most of the consumers were women.
• Mary Meeker, venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. The former Morgan Stanley analyst joined authored a series of well-known reports, including an expansive look at the mobile Internet in 2009. She serves on the board of Square and is actively involved in in Twitter, Groupon, Legalzoom, Waze, 360buy.com, Spotify, Jawbone, One King’s Lane and Trendyol.
• Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State. After leaving government, Rice became a political science professor at Stanford University in March 2009. She is now a faculty member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy
• Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods. With almost 30 years experience in the food and beverage industry, including a stint as CEO of Frito-Lay, Rosenfeld knows the consumer market. She became CEO of Kraft in 2006 and chairman in 2007. She has a Ph.D. in Marketing and Statistics, a master’s in Business Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology – all from Cornell University, where she serves as a trustee.
• Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay Inc. and now CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She might be busy cleaning things up over at H-P since taking over as CEO in Sept. 2011, but Whitman does know Silicon Valley. After serving as CEO of eBay for 10 years, she worked as a part time advistor Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers. Before eBay, she was an executive for Hasbro Inc., FTD Inc., Stride Rite Corp., Walt Disney and Bain & Co. She currently serves as a director of Procter & Gamble and Zipcar Inc.
“Good will in the public market and consumer community cannot be managed like a socialist country,” Garnett adds, saying that Zuckerberg might also want to look for an international woman candidate for his board given his interest in China and his study of Mandarin. “Facebook to me is like a country of 800-million plus citizens, so how do you carefully use that influence?”