Chenault, described by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the country’s most prominent African-American corporate leaders,” will become the first non-white member of Facebook’s board of directors.
This move by Facebook is an effort to address the diversity issues that face Silicon Valley. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer told the Congressional Black Caucus in October that Facebook would hire a black board member “in the foreseeable future.”
Chenault has been a recruiting target for Facebook years according to Mark Zuckerberg. In a Facebook post Zuckerberg wrote, “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.”
Facebook, the worlds largest social network, is fighting to clean up its image when it comes to race. The company has faced withering criticism around its ethnic affinity marketing technology that allowed marketers to exclude minorities from ads related to housing. It is unclear how the Chenault hiring will impact this area.