Facebook's Diversity Flop

We spoke with a group that's pushing the platform to include women and people of color on the board.

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The Face It Campaign

(The Root) -- When Facebook announced that it was launching a $5 billion initial public offering, with a corporate board composed exclusively of white male members, Alice Buttrick and Alice Baumgartner launched Face It, a campaign to spread the message that the company's board should represent the diversity of its users and the country. To the two white Ivy League graduates in their early 20s, that means "the board of white men should include women of all colors."

They founded the organization in April of this year, using protests and an online petition to pressure the social networking giant to go public with a board that reflects what it claimed was its own corporate mission: to make the world more open and connected. That didn't happen, and although on May 15 it was reported that Facebook had hired a search firm to find "at least one woman" for the board, Buttrick says, "We think just one woman reinforces the token status of women and minorities in leadership, and we are keeping the pressure on."

Even after the IPO flop, Face It is not stopping the push for representation. The campaign provided Facebook with a list of candidates that it says are qualified, which it declined to disclose to The Root. However, Buttrick told The Root that she's confident the company's leadership "knows now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the problem is not supply but demand."

In an email exchange, Buttrick provided responses on behalf of Face It, telling The Root about why the campaign chose to focus on Facebook, what the lawsuits filed against Face It mean for its mission and why diversity wouldn't benefit just those who have been left out but would actually be a smart choice for the company.

The Root: Why does the racial and gender composition of Facebook's board matter?

Face It: It matters to the company's shareholders because a diverse board is a symbol of good company management, and studies show that diverse boards, in terms of both gender and ethnicity, improve business outcomes for the company.

It matters to Facebook's employees because diversity at the top tends to help diversity at every level -- women will better understand what female employees need in terms of flexibility, mentorship and support, and policies that support flexibility and diverse lifestyles tend to improve productivity and morale.

It matters to Facebook's users, 58 percent of which are women, that their perspectives are represented at the top of a company built overwhelmingly on the backs of their participation, so that they know the communities they have built using Facebook as a tool will be treated with respect.

And finally, it matters to everyone in the world who is not a rich white male that a company heralded as the future of big business not look so resolutely into the past for a model with which to choose its leaders. In the 21st century, the future, at least, should have a more diverse face.

TR: Does Facebook have a moral obligation to diversify its board? An obligation to shareholders?