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Posted under: News Technology

Facebook Welcomes Its First Black Board Member, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault

The social media giant was under Congressional pressure to become more diverse.

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Facebook announced this week that American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault will be joining its board, The Hill reports. 

A few months ago, Facebook vowed to add a black person to its board of directors amidst criticism that the company's C-suite lacked diversity. The promise came during a tense meeting between Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who chastised the company for not being diverse enough.

There was some question as to whether or not Facebook was merely telling its critics what they wanted to hear, with one member of the CBC noting, “We get a lot of lip service from the technology companies."

However, Facebook has kept its word. Chenault will make history as the first African American to join Facebook's board of directors.

One of the only four black CEOs currently heading a Fortune 500 company, Chenault comes to Facebook with over 30 years experience at American Express. He's also no stranger to Silicon Valley: he currently serves as a member of IBM's board. Chenault joins a small group of black board members at major Silicon Valley tech companies that includes Ursula Burns at Uber and Debra Lee at Twitter.

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

The CBC was satisfied with the appointment. "I’m pleased to see Facebook taking real action to address the issue of diversity within their company," said Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL). "When we began this dialogue with Facebook, we expected swift action, and this decision is without a doubt a step in the right direction."

Kelly, however, also noted that this ought to be only the beginning for the tech world. "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. 

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Tonja Renée Stidhum is a writer/director made of sugar and spice and everything rice. She has the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.
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