Facebook names former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault to board of directors

By Daniel Uria  |  Updated Jan. 18, 2018 at 5:03 PM
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Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Facebook named former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault as the newest member of its board of directors on Thursday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a post saying he has been recruiting Chenault, who will be the first African-American member of the social network's all-white board, for years.

"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," Zuckerberg said. "Ken also has a strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades."

Chenault announced in October he would step down from American Express after 16 years at the company.

"Under his leadership, American Express reached record numbers of new customers and became a leader in customer service. As a Facebook client, Ken always gave honest feedback and pushed us to do better," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a post welcoming Chenault.

He will be replaced by Stephen J. Squeri at American Express on Feb. 4 and his role with Facebook will begin four days later.

Facebook's current board consists of eight members including Zuckerberg, Sandberg, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Whatsapp founder Jan Koum, as well as venture capitalist and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel.

"I'm very excited about working with you, the board and the team to make a meaningful difference in peoples' lives," Chenault said in a response to Zuckerberg's post.

The company has historically failed to hire African Americans and Hispanics in technical roles, with percentages remaining at 1 percent and 3 percent respectively since 2014.

Sillicon Valley as a whole hires black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at half the rate that universities produce them, according to USA Today.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly, D-Ill., issued a statement commending Facebook for its decision to hire Chenault.

"I'm pleased to see Facebook taking real action to address the issue of diversity within their company," Kelly said. "Much work still remains to diversify Silicon Valley. Progress has been slow and we will continue to press companies to enact inclusive hiring policies."

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