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Twitter hires first female board member

Graeme Parton

Microblogging specialist Twitter has appointed former Pearson boss Dame Marjorie Scardino to its board, making her the first woman to take on such a role at the company.

The move comes after Twitter received criticism for its male-dominated line-up. It is thought that Scardino will join the firm immediately and will be present on its audit committee.

The 66-year-old became the first female chief executive of a company in the FTSE 100 back in 1997, when she took over at publishing giant Pearson, which owns the much-loved Penguin brand. Scardino has a media-rich background, with significant ties to The Economist.

The criticism surrounding Twitter’s all-male board started to build around its flotation in November. It was then that the company was valued at almost $28bn, with its shares given the price of $44.90 each.

Leading the disapproval, Vivek Wadhwa, an academic from Stanford University, said in an interview with the New York Times:

“This is the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia. It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking. The fact that they went to the IPO without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”

This led to something of an argument between Wadwha and Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive. Referring to a U.S. stand-up comedian, Costolo described Wadwha as “the Carrot Top of academic sources”. He went on to argue that solving gender equality issues would require more than just “checking any one box”.

Costolo sits on Twitter’s board alongside former News Corp COO Peter Chermin, former Netscape CFO Peter Currie, and Peter Fenton, a venture capitalist from Silicon Valley.

In a tweet published after the appointment, Wadhwa said:

“We don’t want diversity for the sake of diversity. We want it because it improves performance, innovation, values. Makes pie bigger. It’s not just Twitter that needs to be called out. But they are the poster child and in the spotlight because of IPO.”

Given Scardino’s background, we may well see some changes to the way in which Twitter operates. No doubt businesses will keeping their eyes on the situation.

Graeme has experience creating content for online sources and for the radio, and at university he studied Multimedia Journalism.

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