Sandberg Says Facebook Plans to Add First African-American Board Member
By Byron Tau
WASHINGTON -- Facebook Inc. told members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday that the company was taking steps to increase diversity at the highest levels, including committing to add an African-American member to its board.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg made the commitment in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday, according to five lawmakers who emerged from the briefing.
Ms. Sandberg indicated to lawmakers that the company had a specific candidate in mind and was in negotiations to bring that person on board. But she declined to give a timeline on when an announcement could be made, nor did she tell lawmakers the identity of the company's candidate.
"We think there is a tangible value to diversity. We think it makes businesses better businesses, we think it makes corporations better corporations," said Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
He said that Facebook had made a firm commitment to the caucus to make the appointment of the board's first black member. In interviews, four other lawmakers in the meeting confirmed Ms. Sandberg's comments.
Facebook couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
There are currently eight people on the Facebook board, including Ms. Sandberg, and no African-Americans.
The makeup of employees and leadership at technology companies has been heavily scrutinized in recent years, with many firms pledging to take steps to hire a more diverse workforce.
Ms. Sandberg is on Capitol Hill this week meeting with lawmakers over a variety of issues, including issues of offensive speech, foreign propaganda on the company's social network and diversity and inclusion issues.
Mr. Richmond said that a significant amount of the conversation was devoted to diversity issues -- which have been a top issue for the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of 49 black lawmakers serving in the U.S. Congress.
"We met with Facebook over two years ago to talk about diversity in the C-suite and on the board and they still don't have an African-American on the board. That was probably the area that was harped on significantly" in the meeting Thursday, said Mr. Richmond.
Write to Byron Tau at [email protected]