Sheryl Sandberg

Needed: A New IPO Checklist that Includes Women

Last year, when Facebook issued its IPO without a woman on its board of directors there was huge public outcry about the oversight. Women's organizations called for a boycott; people picketed Facebook's offices in New York. After the company went public it tried to rectify the error by putting Sheryl Sandberg on its board. Soon after that, Facebook appointed a second woman, Susan Desmond-Hellman.
 
History repeated itself this year when Twitter announced its IPO plan. Again, stakeholders who care about good corporate governance and company transparency voiced their outrage that another technology giant would go public without any women in the boardroom. During the IPO launch Twitter CEO Dick Costello sparred with Vivek Wadhwa, fellow at Stanford's Rock Center for Corporate Governance, for his statement in the New York Times, " The fact that they went to the I.P.O. without a single woman on the board, how dare they?"
 
Following the IPO, Twitter announced the appointment of its first woman director, Marjorie Scardino, former executive director of Pearson. When asked about the lack of gender diversity on the Twitter board Costello said it was a pipeline issue. But if Scardino was available after the IPO she was probably available before it, along with other qualified women. Men who use the pipeline argument are out of touch with today’s business environment.
 
In 2013 in Silicon Valley, eight out of 13 companies that launched IPOs had no women on their boards. This situation is not because of a pipeline issue; it's directly related to the male-dominated venture community. Venture firms appoint their investors to fill start-up board seats and venture investors are predominantly white and male.
 

Closing The Wage Gap

 
A few years ago, my daughter applied for her first job after college. She worked hard on her resume and cover letter, was asked to come in for an interview and landed the job. Bubbling with excitement, she called to tell me the news. After congratulating her, hearing about the meeting and the responsibilities of the job, I asked how much money she'd be making. Sheepishly, she said, "I didn't ask."
 
I couldn't believe it.  With college loans and rent to pay, my daughter needed a paycheck. I asked her why she didn't ask and her answer astounded me. "I thought it was impolite to talk about money," she said.
 
What I hadn't taught her, and what her university failed to teach her, was that it's OK -- even necessary -- to talk about money. It's a problem that many women have.
 
In her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg tells a story about negotiating her contract at Facebook. She recounts how she was prepared to accept a compensation package that was less than she thought she deserved until her brother-in-law pointedly asked "why would you be willing to make less than any man would make to do the same job?"[1] She went back, re-negotiated with Mark Zuckerberg, and got the package she thought she deserved.
 

Change Is In The Air!

When Facebook filed for an IPO in February without a single woman on its board 2020 Women on Boards took action. Within hours we issued a press release on the wires and engaged thousands on our social media channels. We were interviewed by many publications including the Wall Street Journal. We consulted with the Face It Campaign as they strategized a Facebook Black Out and march in front of the company's New York headquarters. Facebook got the message and put Sheryl Sandberg on the board. Let's see an independent woman director next.
 
We have seen other progress. According to NACD in the last three weeks 6 women have been appointed to the boards of public companies. Four companies left the Z ranks: ConocoPhillips, eHealth, UnderArmour and MBIA, each appointing one woman director. Qualcomm and Game Stock each added a woman to their boards to become W companies.
 
Together we can make it happen!

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