Has Facebook, the No. 1 global social media site now seeking to go public, overlooked women, who constitute more than half of its 845 million members?
The California State Teachers' Retirement System, owner of $30 million in shares of Facebook, thinks so. It's questioned CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the lack of women among the seven directors of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company.
Ann Sheehan director of corporate guidance for the $144.6 billion fund known as CalSTRS, noted the board named in the company's initial public offering filing lacks a wide spectrum of corporate experience as well as gender and racial diversity.
This is particularly glaring at a time when there is clear evidence that companies with diverse boards perform far better than the companies with more homogenous boards, Sheehan wrote.
Meanwhile, Erin Matson, Action VP of the National Organization for Women, said Facebook needs to add female directors. Marc Zuckerberg needs to be held accountable for the values of his generation, she said in an interview.
As a fellow millennial, I know that we didn't go to school to take finance and economics classes only to be told to darn potholders and stay out of the boardroom, Matson added. The NOW VP, 31, said she is a Facebook member and has been concerned about some of its practices.
For example, Matson said Facebook allowed Dr. Pepper to run a campaign on its site targeted for men only which promoted a 10-calorie drink as containing manly calories.
Facebook didn't respond to calls and an email request for comment, although a recording on its main switchboard said it cannot discuss certain information in the so-called quiet period following filing for its IPO Feb. 1.
Facebook's most prominent woman executive is COO Sheryl Sandberg, 43, whose 2011 compensation of $30.4 million outranked CEO Zuckerberg, 27, whose total package was only $1.49 million. The CEO's shares could be valued as high as $28 billion after the IPO.
But the company has been active seeking out women for its activities and management, Jenny Slade, of the National Center for Women in Information Technology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said in an interview.
Facebook invited us to do a 'Sit With Me' campaign, Slade said, which had the center set up a red chair at Facebook headquarters and invite women employees to sit in it for a video camera. Sandberg participated and encouraged other women employees to join her.
Facebook is also seeking to promote women throughout the company to senior management, Slade added. The NCWIT has been active promoting women into the top ranks of technology. Facebook is a member of its workforce alliance.
Still, Facebook's CFO, VP for engineering and general counsel are all male.
Since Sept. 25, both Hewlett-Packard, the largest computer services company, and IBM, No. 2, have named women as CEOs - Meg Whitman, 55, and Virginia Rometty, 54, respectively - but more needs to be done, Slade said.
Other top technology companies headed by women are relatively few. Ursula Burns, 53, is CEO of Xerox and Stephanie DiMarco, 53, is founding CEO of Advent Software. DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, 55, a mechanical engineer, is the first woman in that role at the Wilmington, Del.-based chemical giant.
Just below the top in technology are women including Oracle co-president Safra Catz, 50; Marvell Executive VP Weili Dai, 49, and IBM Senior VP Linda Sanford, 58.
Besides Zuckerberg, who plans to control 57 percent of the outstanding shares of Facebook, which filed to raise $5 billion in an IPO that could value the company at $100 billion, current directors are:
Marc Andreesen, 40, inventor of the Mosaic Web browser that became Netscape, now co-principal of Andreesen Horowitz and a director of HP;
Erskine Bowles, 66, a private investor who served as President Bill Clinton's White House Chief of Staff;
James Breyer,50, a principal of Accel Partners, one of the most successful Silicon Valley venture capital firms;
Donald Graham, 66, CEO of the Washington Post;
Reed Hastings, 51, CEO of Netflix, and
Peter Thiel, 44, an investor who was CEO of PayPal prior to its acquisition by eBay.
Sandberg, though, isn't a director. NOW's Matson said the fact she's not even elected could be the sign Facebook has a no girls allowed sign on the boardroom door. Moreover, Matson said besides being good business, companies in Norway, which by law mandates at least 40 percent of all directors must be women, has had good experience with the policy.
In fact, many companies that weren't even interested in having women now seek them out very actively, Matson said.
David Zielenziger is a veteran editor and journalist who has written for newspapers including the Baltimore Sun, Asian Wall Street Journal and EETimes, as well as for...