Why the Hype about Facebook’s Board is “Just Blabber”

Someone just sent us a link to a blog by Jeff Carter—a self-described “serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and independent trader”—which says that the hype about Facebook’s board is just blabber!  It’s from February, but it’s so good, we had to talk about it here.

To start, Jeff follows a familiar line of argument:  Businesses should not seek out diversity for diversity’s sake but diversity of opinion.  The factors that contribute to the diversity of opinion are class, professional background, and—get this—geography.  (But mind you, not race or gender!) 

By Jeff’s standards, Facebook’s board is diverse.  Their professional backgrounds are varied.  (One runs a newspaper. Another is a former university president.)  They come from different classes.  (Upper and upper-middle, obviously.)  And, they are also geographically diverse.  (Never mind that most are from the East Coast or California.   Marc Andreessen grew up in the Midwest!)

But then Jeff changes his mind entirely.  Perhaps sensing that his readers would find his last argument absurd, he goes on to say that, actually, diversity doesn’t matter at all.   As evidence, he cites a University of Chicago study from—that’s right—1984.  In the study, researchers interviewed more than 60 corporate directors and “found similarities among them no matter what company, gender, or area of the country they were from.” 

So what if Facebook’s board isn’t diverse? It doesn’t matter!

It would have been bad enough if Jeff had stopped there but perhaps giddy with his own irreverence—he describes his blog as “an irreverent look at economics, finance, and politics”—but he continues.

Why aren’t there any women on Facebook’s board, he asks?  According to University of Chicago Professor Ron Burt, whom Jeff cites, the reason is that women are “excluded from the information communication networks among senior managers.”  Jeff does not see this as a problem.  Instead he concludes that women are not on Facebook’s board because of the “differences in the way men and women network.”

He ends with a word of advice to women and minorities:  Duh, just set up “your personal network to place yourself in a spot where you will assume a top role in management.”  Simple as that. 

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Thanks, Jeff!  Next time, I guess we’ll just try harder!

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