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Is There a Glass Keyboard? Facebook, Twitter Boards Hostile to Women

women in business
Photo: courtesy Kong Fanwen, Yanko Design 

The dirty little secret at the top of the world’s two most popular social networking companies that have made (Facebook) or are about to make (Twitter) the shift from privately-owned to publicly-traded businesses is that senior management is mired in a 1950s mindset that a women’s place is in the home.

Because surely her place is not in Facebook’s or Twitter’s pre-IPO boardroom.

According to documents filed last week in support of Twitter’s initial public offering, it’s an unlucky seven as far as women are concerned – all seven positions on Twitter, Inc.’s Board of Directors are occupied by men. White men.

Until recently, Facebook fared no better. Hidden under CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous hoodie is a similar shaming fact: the decision to break up the boys club and add COO Sheryl Sandberg to its board was made under mounting pressure.  A little more than a month following a disappointing 2012 IPO marred by technical glitches and an underperforming stock price, Sandberg, who had been with the company since 2008, was finally granted her seat at the Menlo Park, CA-company’s big boy table.

Less than one year later, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellman, Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, was named to the social network’s 8-member management panel. Like, anyone?

While it would be simplistic to commend (like) Facebook leadership for its apparent policy “shift” and simultaneously condemn (and retweet) Twitter for its “Silicon Valley status quo,” what is most disturbing is the apparent similarity in the reasons given by Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo for not adding a woman to their respective boards, pre-IPO.

Zuckerberg was quoted in a 2011 New Yorker article regarding the lack of women directors on Facebook's board, “I’m not filling the board with check boxes.”

Meanwhile, Costolo, in an exchange with Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, said this on Twitter:Facebook executives

According to the most recent statistics provided by, women’s representation in Fortune 500 leadership positions has steadily increased by 7 percent since 1995. Women now occupy 16.6 percent of all seats on Fortune 500 management boards.

fortune 500 board women

Costolo is right about one thing. The issues are much bigger than just checking a box. It’s a matter of inclusion, not exclusion.

Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter champion innovation; neither should condone, nor promote, an antiquated practice like sexism. 

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