With the eminent IPO of Facebook, the organization has been placed under the microscope. One area which has come under scrutiny is the noted absence of women from their board. All seven directors are men. Some have called it an ‘old-boys club’, while others have stated that this lack of diversity in the board’s composition will ultimately lead to a paucity of diverse ideas and strategies.
Surprising fact 1: 58% of Facebook’s membership are women (according to a 2010 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project). The real grouse is that the ‘old-boys club’ is not representative of its captive audience. Let me play devil’s advocate and stimulate some thought on this subject. Should a woman be placed on the board just for the sake of “representation”? If the board were comprised of only females, would there be an outcry for male representation or would we say “girl power”? Has Facebook given anyone any reason to believe that a woman could not possibly have a seat on the board? This seems like discrimination against men.
Surprising fact 2: The chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, is … a woman! She is considered by some as the public face of Facebook and is an advocate for gender equality. If Facebook is really an ‘old-boys club’, would Sheryl Sandberg be allowed to occupy such a lofty position?
Surprising fact 3: Fortune 500 boards that have more than three women as directors outperform those with less female directors with, on average, a 43% better return on equity. Perhaps from a financial perspective Facebook should rethink their strategy!
Before we begin to apply labels to organizations and their practices, let’s take a moment to be objective about the situation. There are possibly a million reasons why there isn’t a woman on the board. Perhaps it is an ‘old-boys club’. Without sufficient evidence to support either position, I choose to be neutral and avoid assigning labels.