Social media brings to mind our uber-connected world, breaking down communication barriers of all kinds and helping spread information and share our lives. However, there's one way this sector may be antisocial, and that's from a tendency to neglect an entire gender from boards of directors. Forget Web 2.0; welcome to Boys Club 2.0.
Women shouldn't "like" this
Facebook is expected to go public in May, following many other social media stocks that have already hit the public markets. Although there's quite a bit to ponder before buying shares of Facebook (not least of which is "imperial CEO" Mark Zuckerberg), there's another component that wouldn't induce me to hit the "like" button on this IPO.
Facebook has no women on its board of directors. It's not like there's a shortage of female talent floating around. In fact, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg sounds incredibly competent; she previously worked at Google, served as an economist at the World Bank, and was chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. There's also no shortage of women who like Facebook, either; the majority of Facebook users are purportedly female.
You'd think young companies like Facebook would integrate a more progressive view of board composition, but apparently this isn't the case. You see, Facebook isn't the only social media stock that's a little socially inept.
Boys club composition?
Let's take a look at the board composition of some of the most well-known social media stocks.
What are you playing at: Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA ) claims it's "connecting the world through games" such as FarmVille and Words With Friends, but its board isn't actually connected with any women whatsoever. Out of its 240 million monthly active users, I'd venture to guess plenty of them are actually female.
Sorry, Angie: By the very nature of the name, you might think maybe Angie's List (Nasdaq: ANGI ) would have a female-friendly board. In reality, the Angie's List board consists entirely of men. (Co-founder Angela Hicks Bowman, aka Angie Hicks, serves as chief marketing officer.)
A few social media stocks do a bit better -- or you could argue, do the bare minimum in this regard.
A single link to an entire gender: LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD ) boasts one female director, Leslie Kilgore. Kilgore's resume is impressive, including stints at Netflix and Amazon.com.
A whisper, not a scream: Yelp (NYSE: YELP ) boasts former Blue Nile CEO Diane Irvine on its board, just narrowly missing the zero-women stigma.
Not quite a homogenous group: Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN ) has one female director, Mellody Hobson. She's also on the boards of major companies Starbucks, DreamWorks, and Estee Lauder.
Social vs. antisocial
Studies show that female presence on corporate boards makes good business sense. Diversity in many forms helps groups make better decisions.
Although women occupy seats on more than one in 10 boards across the world now, corporate America is still behind, according to GMI Ratings' 2012 Women on Boards survey. Although more than 70% of American companies have at least one woman on their boards, from 2009 to 2011 the percentage of women on U.S. corporate boards has increased a mere half a percentage point.
You'd think the onslaught of social media stocks would better represent more fair and balanced boards. Last year, Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that young women are an extremely large part of the Internet users flooding into social media sites. The report described these young women as "power users," in fact. About 89% of female Internet users 18-29 years old use such sites, and 69% reported logging in every day.
Obviously, female participation is a major part of why social media is so social to begin with. The fact that such companies' boards tend to be filled up with males doesn't reflect the reality or the promise of the social media revolution. It simply reflects some backward-looking problems in corporate America, sadly updated for the new generation of publicly traded Internet companies.
Check back at Fool.com every Wednesday and Friday for Alyce Lomax's columns on environmental, social, and governance issues.