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.

Those In The Know

Speak Out, Margaret!
Those in the know, namely some pretty big institutional investors, have called the addition of Margaret Hayne to Urban Outfitter’s board “cynical” “bogus” and a “calculated insult" to investors who have supported shareholder resolutions against Urban's all male board.
Ms. Hayne, the wife of Urban's CEO Richard Hayne, is president of the company's Free People brand and is Urban Outfitter's second largest shareholder, outside of her husband. A smart businesswoman she's qualified to serve on lots of boards, but not on this one, shareholder activists say.
And while there's reason to believe that Mr. Hayne put his wife on the board to silence his critics, maybe he's provided us with an opportunity.
When Mark Zuckerberg put Sheryl Sandberg on Facebook's board he got a lot of flack because Sheryl was an insider. But soon after Sandberg's appointment, Facebook added a second woman, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a Chancellor of the University of California and former president at Genintech.  In our lingo, Facebook became a "W" Company.
So, we're reaching out to Margaret Hayne and asking her to speak out; to tell her husband and his cronies that her appointment marks a change; the buck doesn't stop here. The board needs another woman, and maybe a person of color to be more representative of Urban's stakeholders. Ms. Hayne has an opportunity to mend some fences. We hope she's up to the task.

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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