World and Nation

Before IPO, Twitter adds first woman to its board

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter announced Thursday that it had added the former publishing executive Marjorie M. Scardino to its board of directors — the first woman to serve in a such a role at the social networking company.

In the run-up to its November initial public offering of stock, Twitter had come under fire for the absence of any women on its board, which was made up of seven men, most of them from the fields of technology or finance. Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, even got into a public tweeting match with one of the company’s critics over the issue.

Although about half of the social network’s 232 million users are women, few women are in the top ranks of the company.

Scardino, 66, is the former chief executive officer of Pearson, a London-based education and media conglomerate whose properties include Penguin Random House in book publishing and The Financial Times and The Economist in journalism. She had also served on the board of Nokia, the Finnish cellphone maker.

As at any company, the board oversees strategy, appoints the chief executive and decides important issues such as executive compensation. Diverse points of views can help a board make better decisions, according to corporate governance experts.

“It isn’t that any gender or ethnicity has a monopoly on understanding different markets,” said Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute at the Yale School of Management. “But the more variety you have on there, the more you defeat the tendency towards groupthink.”

Sonnenfeld said Scardino was an excellent choice. “She certainly does know the publishing business and she has worked for some strong egos,” he said, adding that Pearson’s financial performance under her leadership was excellent.

Scardino’s background should certainly help Twitter with its global expansion plans and its efforts to encourage use of the service by the media, including news organizations around the world. Before running Pearson, she ran its Economist Group, which is well known for its deeply reported profiles of countries and industries. And as the leader of one of the world’s largest publishing companies, she got to know some of the biggest advertisers on the planet. In the face of criticism about its lack of gender diversity, Twitter has recently been involving itself in events for women, such as co-sponsoring a hackathon for female programmers.