Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Carrot Flop: Twitter CEO Costolo Finds Lack of Woman on Board Is No Joking Matter

Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the lack of women on the board of Twitter, just as the San Francisco microblogging company prepared to unveil its IPO documents.

In the post, I noted that “the lack of a female director on its board even caused one board member to make a naughty joke that has been widely repeated inside the company — and forgive me in advance for this — that Twitter’s governing body has to expand beyond ‘three Peters and a Dick.'”

That quip referred to four of the members of the all-white, all-male board: Former Netscape CFO and well-known investor Peter Currie; former News Corp COO and successful Hollywood mogul Peter Chernin; under-the-radar Silicon Valley power VC Peter Fenton of Benchmark Capital; and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

Yesterday, Costolo tried to make another funny on the subject that only ended up casting light on the glaring issue even more. Responding to a critic of the board makeup — Stanford University’s voluble Vivek Wadhwa — the longtime tech exec tweeted that Wadhwa is the “Carrot Top of academic sources.”

That would be the not-so-funny comic — and a very low blow!

Wadhwa — a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, who is currently writing a book on women in tech — was quoted in a New York Times piece about the lack of a female board member at Twitter: “This is the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia. It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking. The fact that they went to the I.P.O. without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”

As you might imagine, the snarky tweet by Costolo — who has done a lot of improv comedy himself — was not well received by many on Twitter, although he and Wadhwa had several exchanges that were more civil.


It was an interesting back-and-forth, for sure, which is likely to put more pressure on the Twitter board to add a woman sooner than later. Among the many reasons that it might be a good idea? Numerous studies show that more women use Twitter than men.

To be clear, correcting the massive gender imbalance in corporate governance is something more companies in tech — Twitter is hardly an outlier here — certainly need to consider.

As I wrote more than two years ago, many private Web 2.0 companies have few women board members, unlike a number of public tech companies.

While slow in adding them, the boards of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn and eBay now include at least one woman.

Sources at Twitter, as I previously wrote, said the company has placed a top priority on adding a woman to the current all-male roster, as well as hiring a search firm to gin up names of candidates.

That list was topped by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a pretty big reach, who has not been contacted by Twitter as yet. Among those who did engage with the company, said sources: Former NBC Universal exec Lauren Zalaznick and former MTV Networks chief Judith McGrath.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle