Twitter's Glaring Missing Assethttp://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/10/28/twitters-glaring-missing-asset.aspx Alyce Lomax
October 28, 2013
Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) wasn't a social-media early bird to the public markets, so it didn't share the IPO spotlight with Web 2.0 brethren like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB). However, Twitter's IPO debut is now upon us. Looking past the fanfare, it appears it's stumbled in an area that should have been elementary good business sense.
There are no women on Twitter's board of directors. During Facebook's IPO process, I thought we had already established that when it comes to social media and its strengths in the modern online world, this oversight is disgraceful -- and strategically stupid.
If Twitter's management and board had been paying attention to similar criticism aimed at Facebook before it went public, they could have already nipped this in the bud and worked to build a stronger board. This could imply that this is an arrogant, one-dimensional management team that investors might want to think twice about.
One of social media's most important factors is that females are power users. In 2011, the Pew Internet and American Life Project pointed out that young females are a particularly strong force in social media, with 89% of women between 18 and 29 who hang out online using social media, and 69% stating they use the medium every single day. That figure compares with 60% of all online men.
A recent update from Pew showed that female social-media users continue to outpace male counterparts. The average gap between the proportion of male and female social-media users is 8% since May 2008.
There's something creepy about the implication of social-media companies' relationships with women. Surely they appreciate strong users and enablers of these businesses' own traffic, appeal, usefulness, and stickiness, all of which are important to the companies' yearning for ad dollars. This appreciation apparently doesn't stretch into recognizing who many of these users actually are.
Given what we know about social media and usage by gender, we can see an outright lack of respect for customer demographics and those who would understand a huge chunk of users the most. Considering board composition alone, whether women are only welcome on one level of the framework is a very good question.
Wouldn't you think new-school companies, like Twitter, would be among the most enlightened and evolved? Seeing a jarring lack of women on social-media companies' boards brings to mind little boy bullies on the playground replacing the old-boy networks of yore.
Bro-boards and other modern missteps
So far, Twitter's response to its parallel situation is that it's going to tackle its lack of female directors after the company goes public. The official version is that this is a complex decision that should take into account things like international expertise.
Apparently being careful and measured depends upon the situation, though. Twitter CEO Dick Costola used the Twitter platform to rebut Vivek Wadwha, who criticized the all-male board as something akin to the mafia brotherhood -- common in Silicon Valley.
Wadwha also pointed out that the one female highlighted as top management, Vijaya Gadde, received about a month before the fast-tracked IPO filing.
Obviously, Costola's rebuttal was very soberly and carefully thought out: He called Wadwha "the Carrot Top of academic sources."
Twitter's bro-board brings up a lot of the churning problems regarding women in all levels of the workforce, particularly tech. Females are venturing into tech more than ever, and apparently some guys apparently are taking it badly. The "brogrammer" joke exists for a reason. Tech's reputation for being innovative and forward-looking makes the situation even more puzzling and downright sad.
Fortunately, some companies are aware of male-dominated areas, and trying to do something about the idea that their companies might be all about the bros.
For example, take Google's Women in Tech conference, which reaches out to young women for its workforce. In the spring, co-founder Larry Page talked about the company's drive to bring in more women into its company's techie area. He stated the need to "start early and make sure we get more women and girls excited in technology. There's no question we will double the rate of progress."
Meritocracy: the rhetoric vs. the reality
Plenty of research shows