No women on boards of large Web 2.0 companies

12 01 2011

Reposted from All Things Digital

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook
This is a great little video. I’m not sure if I agree about her second point, but the rest is good.

In one memorable episode of the famous old short films “The Little Rascals,” after not getting invited to a party, the Our Gang little dudes decided to form their own group, comically called “The He-Man Woman-Haters Club.”

In other words: No girls allowed!

While it was wink-wink cute when Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat huffed and puffed about keeping out Darla–which they never ever could do–back in the last century, it’s not quite as adorkable when it comes to the boards of all the major Web 2.0 hotshots these days.

That would be Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and Foursquare, none of which have any women as directors.

As in zero.

What’s most remarkable is that most of these start-ups are run by what I consider enlightened and open-minded entrepreneurs, mostly young enough to be part of a generation more inclined to value equality and diversity in the workplace.

In addition, each of these companies has a massive base of women consumers, in some cases well over 50 percent of its audience.

Thus, it would seem logical that in casting about for those to help guide these companies, one or two women leaders might slip in.

To be fair, it’s not for lack of trying, but of completion, as was the case with Twitter’s recent addition of three new board members.

They were longtime Silicon Valley exec Peter Currie, Flipboard CEO and co-founder Mike McCue and former DoubleClick leader David Rosenblatt.

All are deeply qualified for the Twitter board, which is obviously prepping for its next stage of growth and maturity.

But in its search, the San Francisco microblogging site did not manage to cast the net quite wide enough.

While sources said at least one prominent online woman exec was considered, there were some legitimate issues with her appointment, and it was not completed.

Still, one might imagine Twitter could have tried harder to find other workable choices.

Currently, the Twitter board is made up of the new trio, as well as Benchmark Capital’s Peter Fenton, Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, CEO Dick Costolo and co-founders Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey.

Things are not any better over at Facebook, which has several prominent women execs running the show, most especially its high-profile COO Sheryl Sandberg.

But, inexplicably, though she does attend board meetings, she is not yet a director of Facebook, nor is any other woman.

In fact, here is Sandberg on topic at a recent TED event for women, in an eloquent speech titled “Why We Have So Few Women Leaders”:

Instead, the Facebook board is all men, all the time, composed of CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, prominent techie and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, investor Peter Thiel, Accel Partners’ Jim Breyer and Washington Post head Don Graham.

It is no better at three of the most prominent recent Web 2.0 start-ups, which one source attributes to the lack of woman VCs, who are often the first board members after major investment rounds.

At Zynga, the hot social gaming company in San Francisco, it continues, with an all-male board, despite a very heavily female audience for its casual social games.

That would be co-founder and CEO Mark Pincus, COO Owen Van Natta, investor Bing Gordon of Kleiner Perkins, investor Reid Hoffman and Brad Feld of the Foundry Group.

The same is true at woman-targeted–spas, spas and more spas–social buying site Groupon, which has an unusually large board for a start-up and made up of–as per usual–all men.

The list: Co-founder and CEO Andrew Mason, Accel Partners’ Kevin Efrusy, former AT&T President and COO John Walter, New Enterprise Associates’ Harry Weller and Peter Barris, former AOL exec Ted Leonsis, 37Signals co-founder Jason Fried and early investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell.

And, much smaller, is Foursquare’s board, which is the trio of co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley, co-founder Naveen Selvadurai and Union Square Ventures’ Albert Wenger.

New investors–Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures’ Bryce Roberts–have observer status and both are, needless to say, dudes.

There is no question it is tough to make sure there is a good balance of qualified women leaders to men in tech–it is an issue we wrestle with every single year for the program of speakers at our own All Things Digital conference, although we are most excellent on this issue on our Web site and conference staff.

But it can be done, especially at public tech companies. Google has two women on its board of nine directors; Yahoo has three of 10; even Oracle has two of a dozen.

But a grand total of zero at the leading companies of Web 2.0 is not just a coincidence.

It’s a shame.




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