Twitter is the sweetheart of the tech industry. It’s fresh and cool and clever and wildly successful. “Twitter-ing” is the ultimate New Technology Thing Our Grandparents Don’t Understand, and it’s one of the biggest game-changers of this century. It’s changed the way we make news, get news, construct arguments, engage with celebrities, and express ourselves – forever.
With all of that going on, you’d expect Twitter to be a really progressive company. You’d think they’d be open to, I don’t know, something futuristic like promoting fair and equal representation of women on boards. Devastatingly, it turns out that Twitter’s as much a Boys Club as anywhere else.
Twitter’s about to go public – so, just like when Mark Zuckerberg floated Facebook, the company will hit the stock market and people can buy shares. When that happens, we use something called an IPO, or Initial Public Offering, to predict the value of the biz. Twitter’s IPO is currently $3 billion (yowzers!).
Going public is the business-world equivalent of saying “Please like me”, because every share bought is a vote of confidence in the future of that company. When a company goes public, they put forward their best-possible board of execs. It’s their time to shine, so they assemble the sweetest group of kick-ass board members they can find.
Twitter has just done that. And is there a single woman on that board? NUP. NO GIRLZ ALLOWED.
That decision has pissed off a lot of people, including me. Truly, I’d like to Instagram a vulgar gesture and send it to Twitter’s CEO with the caption “Tweet this, Dick!” (I say Dick because it’s actually his name). And I’m not alone; there are enough sensibly incensed women to make a global flash mob of vulgar gestures.
Here’s why Twitter’s No Ladiez policy is totally inexcusable. Whenever we talk about women on boards, inevitably some dude will say, “Show me a woman good enough for the job” or “We’re not hiring a chick just so we can say we did”. This time, that dude was CEO Dick Costolos, who tweeted that he didn’t want to do it “just so he could check that box”. What he’s saying, is that if he appointed a woman to the Twitter board, it’d only be for the sake of it; a meaningless gesture, not an indication of merit or promise.
Here’s the thing, though, Dick. You had many brilliant candidates to choose from – and a great walloping number of them happened to be female. The New York Times even hand-delivered you a list of 25 outstanding possibilities. You could’ve been playing Candy Crush Saga during the whole selection process and still hand-picked a few women for the board.
We’re talking about women who, between them, have decades of experience in media, tech, innovation, commerce, politics, journalism, television, film, and web development. We’re talking about powerful industry leaders: Susan Lyne, the CEO of AOL Brand Group; Renee James, the president of Intel; Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry; Shonda Rimes, screenwriter/director/producer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal; Shelly Lazarus, former Oglivy CEO; Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Television Group and a chairwoman of Disney Media Networks.
One of the frontrunners was our very own Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan US. For obvious reasons, Joanna’s inclusion on the list was completely thrilling for me. She would have been effing fabulous on the board of Twitter, and it’s a shambles and a shame that she isn’t.
Basically, Dick Costolo stood there with a list of these astonishingly qualified, capable, market-leading women in his hands, and still said “Nah mate, don’t think so”. He filled the board with dudes just like him, in what I declare Dick Move of the Week. It’s really, really hard for women to crack into the tech industry because it’s one of the most stubbornly male-dominated in the world.
Twitter had the chance to be fair and awesome, and appoint some brilliant women, but they missed it. They wilfully squandered the chance to make #progress trend. And that’s just not good enough.