Twitter lures Vivian Schiller from NBC News to improve gender balance at the top

Twitter has announced that it has hired Vivian Schiller in a bid to improve the paucity of women represented on its board.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Twitter has been lambasted for not having any women on its board and has finally taken steps towards improving its gender balance.

vivian-schiller rightwingnews
Vivian Schiller. Image: Right Wing News

Its S-1 filing showed that all its investors and most of its executives are male although a female lawyer, Vijaya Gadde has been hired. Gadde holds the position of general counsel, joining Twitter at the start of September.

Catalyst, a research firm based in the US published a research report showing that women held only 16.6 percent of board seats in 2012, 14.3 percent of Executive Officer positions and only 8.1 percent of top earner slots.

Women of colour held only 3.3 percent of board seats and over two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies had no women of colour board directors.

This study, and a similar study by Mckinsey showed that companies with significant numbers of top female managers do better, both in terms of organizational aspects such as innovation and accountability and also in terms of profit, relative to sector competitors.

Companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams experienced better financial performance than companies with the lowest women’s representation.

This finding holds true for Return on Equity (ROE), which is 35 percent higher, and Total Return to Shareholders (TRS), which is 34 percent higher.

It seems odd that Twitter should shun balanced female representation on its board.

Pew Research has tracked the percentage of women and men who use social networking and found that the percentage of women using these sites has been consistently higher since 2008.

pew research women users of social networking
Image: Pew Research Centre

Gender specific vitriol thrives across the web.

A finalist in the UK’s Great British Bake off highlighted the hatred aimed at the three female finalists on the show. Google searches in the US show hatred and misogyny in their autocomplete suggestions — suggestions generated by previous Google searches.

50 years after people started to fight for gender equality, we still see events such as “Hackers and Hookers” invitations in silicon valley, using women as geek bait and hackers as males.

Chief Executive Dick Costolo acknowledged that Twitter says he understands the gender issue.

It has female Vice Presidents across its business, but none who are in technical roles.

Yesterday Twitter announced it had hired a woman board member, deflecting criticism of its lack of female representation.

Vivian Schiller will head Twitters news partnerships starting in January.

Schiller currently is Senior VP and Chief Digital Officer for NBC News. She leads NBC News Digital, the digital division of NBC News.

Her responsibilities currently include strategic oversight of the network’s presence on the web, in mobile and devices, and on social media.

Part of her job will be to make Twitter “indispensable to newsrooms and journalists.”

The attitude in silicon valley with its pattern of advancing geeky white males into positions of power will be a tough nut to crack – even for this experienced female leader at the top of her game.

And if Twitter wants to improve its total Return to Shareholders post IPO it had better keep looking to improve its gender balance and ensure it lives up to all the pre IPO hype.

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