Facebook adds American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault as its first black board member

Facebook’s all-white board of directors is getting more diverse.

On Thursday, the Menlo Park tech firm said it added American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault — a well-known black corporate leader — to the tech firm’s board of directors.

Chenault will join the board on Feb. 5 after he retires from his job at American Express, making him the first black leader to join Facebook’s board of directors.

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“I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. 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 strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades,” wrote Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in a statement.

Chenault said he was “delighted” to join the board and looked forward to working with the company.

As Silicon Valley tech firms struggle to diversify its workforce, which is made up of mostly white and Asian men, they’ve also been shaking up the leadership on their board of directors.

Groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus have pressed tech firms to diversity not only their workforce but people in leadership positions.

In 2016, Twitter appointed BET Networks CEO Debra Lee to its board of directors, making her the first black woman to sit on the social media company’s board.

Diversity advocates, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, applauded Facebook on Thursday for diversifying its board of directors.

“There are a significant number of qualified minorities who are more than capable to be among the leadership of major companies such as Facebook – a social medium that is used by all races, colors, and creeds,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), in a statement.  “I am pleased to hear that Facebook has not only acknowledged the lack of diversity within its company but they listened to our concerns and chose a new direction for the future.”

Chenault joined American Express in 1981. He’s been the company’s chairman and CEO since April 2001. Chenault graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in history and earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Photo: American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Dec. 6, 2011. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

 

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