Twitter Inc. named former Pearson Plc Chief Executive Officer Marjorie Scardino to its board after the microblogging service faced criticism that it lacked women in its top ranks.
The appointment of Scardino, 66, is effective immediately, Twitter said today in a filing. She led Pearson, the education and publishing company, from 1997 to last year. The addition of Scardino expands Twitter’s board to eight people.
The absence of women on Twitter’s board was “a joke,” Sallie Krawcheck, a former Bank of America Corp. executive, said last month at a Bloomberg LP conference. It showed Silicon Valley was no better than Wall Street when it came to female representation, she said. Facebook Inc., which had a similar lack of representation when it went public in May 2012, now has two female directors, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Twitter raised $2.09 billion in an initial public offering last month, with the stock soaring 73 percent on its first day of trading. The San Francisco company has about 230 million users, who use the service to broadcast messages of no more than 140 characters. Twitter, which is unprofitable, is working to beef up its advertising business.
“There couldn’t be a more exciting time in Twitter’s history to join!” Scardino said in a post today, her first message on the service.
Jim Prosser, a spokesman for Twitter, declined to provide additional comment.
“It seems to be a relevant and helpful addition to the board based on her international experience and experience in the media business,” Carlos Kirjner, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said in an interview. “It is of high relevance to their expansion.”
Twitter today also said it is adding capabilities for advertisers. The company is expanding a feature, dubbed tailored audiences, which lets marketers reach Twitter users who are already interested in their products. The method, called retargeting, makes it possible to track a person’s Internet activity and serve them an ad based on what they browsed.
“We have seen impressive results from those advertisers in our beta test using the tailored audiences program over several months’ time,” said the company in a blog post.
Twitter shares rose 4.4 percent to $45.62 at the close in New York.
Scardino, who was the only woman heading up a FTSE 100 company when she was appointed to Pearson, in five years transformed a mismatched British company, founded by Samuel Pearson in 1844 as a Yorkshire building company, into the world’s largest book publisher.
During Scardino’s tenure at Pearson, the number of employees more than doubled to 41,520 in 2011 while sales almost tripled to 5.87 billion pounds ($9.59 billion) and operating profit more than tripled to 942 million pounds. The company’s share price rose more than 80 percent while the FTSE 100 index gained about 40 percent.
Born in Arizona and raised in Texas, the former rodeo racer helped found the Pulitzer Prize-winning Georgia Gazette in 1978. The weekly newspaper, which was published in Savannah, Georgia, folded in the mid-’80s.
Scardino is a graduate of Baylor University and the University of San Francisco’s School of Law. Prior to becoming CEO of Pearson, she was CEO at the Economist Group. In 2010, she was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In joining Twitter’s board, Scardino was granted 4,018 shares of the company, which will vest quarterly over one year, according to the filing.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said the board was in regular discussions with potential candidates during the IPO process, and declared that a woman would join the board in a Nov. 7 interview with Bloomberg Television.
“It was very important to us, in the run up to the IPO, not to ask someone to join the board and sign off on the kinds of registration statements and personal liability you have to take on before they’d spent any time with the company, before they’d even come to a board meeting,” Costolo told Bloomberg’s Emily Chang at the New York Stock Exchange. “We just didn’t think that was respectful, frankly.”
Women accounted for just less than 18 percent of directors at Standard & Poor’s 500 Index company boards this year, up from 17 percent in 2012 and an 11 percent gain in the last five years, according to executive recruiter Spencer Stuart, which tracks board composition each year through proxy filings. That averages out to about 1.9 women per board.
Two-thirds of the S&P 500 boards now have two or more women and about 7 percent still have none, Spencer Stuart said in the 2013 Board Index report. This year, 24 percent of new directors were women. There are 22 women serving as CEOs in the S&P 500 this year, the most since Spencer Stuart started tracking the figures.
“Silicon Valley tends to be pretty insular and people sit on each other’s boards, and when that happens it stifles innovation,” Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said in an interview. “If companies don’t really strive to be diverse, then they artificially block outside voices that can make them better.”