Serena Williams Joins SurveyMonkey Board in Diversity Push

  • Moves come as Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Whitman steps down
  • Williams says she’s committed to ‘letting all voices be heard’

Tennis champion Serena Williams will join the board of online-polling provider SurveyMonkey Inc., where she’s expected to advocate for diversity at the company and throughout Silicon Valley.

Joining Williams on the board is Intuit Inc. Chief Executive Officer Brad Smith. The two replace Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. CEO Meg Whitman and Bill Veghte, executive chairman of Turbonomic, who have stepped down. Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is also on the board of SurveyMonkey, where her late husband David Goldberg was CEO.

”Our focus is turning people’s voices into actionable data, and to do that, we need true representation across all areas: gender, race and sexual orientation,” Zander Lurie, SurveyMonkey’s CEO, wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday. “While our diversity numbers are as good or better than others in the tech industry, we aspire to more. Serena’s been a force of change for decades. That matters to our employees, customers and Silicon Valley.”

Williams, who also runs a fashion company, said she’s “driven to ask what’s happening and why. We also share a fierce commitment to letting all voices be heard. This is why SurveyMonkey is the right fit for me," according to a statement from the company.

The athlete, whose winning streaks have made her the most successful woman in tennis, said she would use her role to foster a more inclusive environment in the technology industry.

“I feel like diversity is something I speak to,” Williams told the Associated Press. “Change is always happening; change is always building. What is important to me is to be at the forefront of the change and to make it easier for the next person that comes behind me.”

SurveyMonkey’s demographics are slightly more diverse than most tech companies, though there’s plenty of room for improvement. Among SurveyMonkey’s tech workers, 27 percent are female, according to a spokeswoman. Of the company’s 650 employees, 14 percent are from a minority group underrepresented in tech, such as African Americans, Latinos or those belonging to two or more races.

Williams, who will be serving on a corporate board for the first time, is engaged to Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder and chairman of social news website Reddit. He is also a partner at venture capital firms Y Combinator Inc. and Initialized Capital Management, LLC.

Founded in 1999, SurveyMonkey sees more than 3 million survey responses every day. The San Mateo, California-based company’s platform is aimed at helping people make better decisions with technology based on survey methodology and web development. Its customers include Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and neighborhood soccer leagues.

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