Sheryl Sandberg, the fifth most powerful woman in the world, Silicon Valley’s most-watched female and Facebook’s COO, has been named the first woman to the company’s board of directors after four years with the company.
She joins CEO Mark Zuckerberg and six other board members that include Adreessen Horowitz’s Marc Andreessen, James W. Breyer of Accel Partners Reed Hastings, the chairman and CEO, Netflix and Founder’s Fund Peter A. Thiel, among others. Marketwatch reported and Facebook confirmed this news with FORBES this afternoon.
Given the pressure that’s been on Facebook to increase diversity on its board, Sandberg’s appointment does not come as a total surprise to the tech community. Women are a significant minority among those employed in technology jobs. Although women comprise 48% of the U.S. workforce, they hold only 24% of science, engineering, technology, and math positions, according to government statistics. As my colleague Larissa Faw noted recently, this imbalance means the few high achievers, such as Sandberg, are viewed as both an inspiration and as outliers, making today’s news even more compelling.
In the lead-up to the company’s spring IPO, pressure on Facebook to increase diversity on its board began to mount and my colleague Connie Guglielmo took note of a rash of protests. Ultraviolet, a community of women’s rights activists, protested outside Facebook’s New York headquarters in March and submitted a petition signed by 53,000 people collected in under 48 hours asking Zuckerberg to add a women to the board.
But while Sandberg’s appointment is certainly positive news, it does cast a light on the continued gender imbalance on the boards of some of Silicon Valley’s most popular and influential firms. By Guglielmo’s count Adobe Systems, Pandora, Zillow, Zynga and Splunk’s boards are no-girls-allowed, while Apple, Groupon and LinkedIn have only one woman board member.
“Sheryl has been my partner in running Facebook and has been central to our growth and success over the years,” said Zuckerberg in a statement. “Her understanding of our mission and long-term opportunity, and her experience both at Facebook and on public company boards makes her a natural fit for our board.”
Before joining Facebook, Sandberg served as vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, and held a position in the Clinton administration, serving as Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department. In addition to Facebook, she serves on the boards of The Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, the Center for Global Development and V-Day.
As reported by TechCrunch, Sandberg will have her own vote in all company matters, meaning she won’t be voting to represent anyone else—whether chief executive Mark Zuckerberg or other shareholders.