Technology

Facebook appoints American Express CEO as first black board member

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Facebook announced on Thursday that it will bring Kenneth Chenault, the CEO of American Express, onto its board.

Chenault will become the first African-American board member at the social media giant.

His hiring follows a contentious meeting between Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in October, in which Sandberg promised that the company was in the process of appointing a black individual to the board.

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CBC members including Reps. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-N.J.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) praised Chenault’s appointment to the board.

“I’m pleased to see Facebook taking real action to address the issue of diversity within their company,” Kelly said. “When we began this dialogue with Facebook, we expected swift action and this decision is without a doubt a step in the right direction.”

She did note that she would still like to see the technology industry do more on increasing diversity within its ranks. 

“Much work still remains to diversify Silicon Valley. Progress has been slow and we will continue to press companies to enact inclusive hiring policies,” she said. 

Chenault will also become one of a few black board members at major technology firms across Silicon Valley, joining others like Ursula Burns at Uber and Debra Lee at Twitter.

“I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve — customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement announcing Chenault’s hiring.

“Ken also has a sense of social mission and integrity I admire and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”

Chenault is also a board member at IBM and has been working at American Express since 1981.

“We get a lot of lip service from the technology companies,” Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who is a member of the CBC, told reporters after meeting with Sandberg in October. “We’ve continued to exert pressure on technology companies to be more diverse and inclusive. Not only will it help their bottom line, but it will make America stronger.”

This story was updated at 12:47 p.m.

Tags Board Bonnie Watson Coleman Diversity Facebook G.K. Butterfield Mark Zuckerberg Mark Zuckerberg Robin Kelly
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