In response to the company's announcement, the former boss of the Financial Times publisher acknowledged the news in what appeared to be her first tweet: “@twitter Thank you. There couldn't be a more exciting time in Twitter's history to join!” she wrote.
Twitter said Scardino would join the company immediately and would be a member of its audit committee.
In 1997 Scardino, who is now 66, became the first woman chief executive of a FTSE 100 company in Britain, when she was appointed to lead Pearson. She has deep ties in media and education: Pearson owns most of Penguin Random House and a half-stake in The Economist and under her tenure built one of the largest education publishing and testing businesses in the world.
Her appointment comes after Twitter faced criticism regarding its all-male board, before its flotation last month. The Stanford University academic and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa told the New York Times: “This is the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia. It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking. The fact that they went to the IPO without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”
The comment led to a spat between Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo and Wadhwa. Referring to an American stand-up comedian, Costolo called Wadhwa “the Carrot Top of academic sources”. Costolo argued that: “The issues are much bigger than checking any one box.”
As well as Costolo, Twitter's board includes former Netscape chief financial officer Peter Currie, former News Corp chief operating officer Peter Chernin and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Fenton.
After Scardino’s appointment, Wadhwa tweeted: “On Twitter, yes, I know easy and popular thing is to declare success and smile. But much more needs to be done … and in their interest. We don't want diversity for the sake of diversity. We want it because it improves performance, innovation, values. Makes pie bigger. It's not just Twitter that needs to be called out. But they are the poster child and in the spotlight because of IPO.”
Twitter is not the only tech company with poor representation of women at senior levels. According to the research firm GMI Ratings, about 49% of publicly traded tech businesses have no women on their boards, compared with 36% of the 2,770 largest public companies in the country.
Scardino was born in Flagstaff, Arizona, and took British citizenship in January 2002. A month later, she was made a dame.
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image: © Howard Lake