Dick Costolo dishes on his Female Problem

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on December 6, 2013

From The News Desk

There was a hubbub before Twitter's IPO when The New York Times reported that no member of Twitter's board was a woman. The article quoted researcher Vivek Wadhwa saying "It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking. The fact that they went to the I.P.O. without a single woman on the board, how dare they?" CEO Dick Costolo tweeted a defensive response to Wadhwa.

Inevitably, Costolo's tweet inspired the wrath of the Internet. Criticism ranged from the disappointment of writer Anil Dash to the ire of feminist journalists. (It should be noted that Sarah Lacy defended Twitter's board appointments, pissing off even more people.)

Now, a month after going public, Twitter has added a woman, Marjorie Scardino, former CEO of Pearson and The Economist Group.

The company announced the news on Thursday -- the same day as Costolo's PandoMonthly interview. Brilliant timing.

During the PM interview, Costolo and Lacy discussed what happened with the gender discrimination scandal, why Scardino was the right fit for the job, and the reasons Costolo picked her.

Lacy opened things up by pointing to the timing: "There was a lot of controversy about your board and the lack of women until recently," she said, "and low and behold, you now have a more gender diverse board."

Costolo said that he had been in discussions with several people about joining the board, and didn't want to rush the process. "You don't want to ask someone to sign up to all the registration statements and liabilities that goes with being a board member of a public company before they've actually had a chance to really know much about the company or spend any time with the company," he said. "It's not a particularly respectful thing to do."

"Did you think it was important to have a woman on the board for the sake of having a woman on the board?" Lacy asked.

Costolo stumbled before pointing out, that Twitter suffers from gaps on the board besides a lack of women. It's exclusively composed of American executives and lacks global operating experience. "We were absolutely looking for a person who filled a number of what we felt were aspects or areas of expertise that we were deficient in," Costolo said. "And obviously that includes women on the board."

Marjorie Scardino fits some of these needs Costolo looks to fill. While she's an American she has international experience, global operating expertise, and a print media background that complements that of fellow board member Peter Chernin's Hollywood and television work.

"All of those things are reasons we love having her involved," Costolo said. "It was absolutely about finding a whole person that was all of these things not 'We have to go check that box.'"

"I enjoyed how you responded to that whole controversy," Lacy said.

His Vivek Wadhwa-Carrot Top tweet displayed the wit of a comedian, which he is, but also incited a public flogging, and resulted in unsolicited free advice courtesy of  friends and business associates.

"Biz Stone said to me, 'The next time you're thinking of responding to something that way, just call the Biz Stone hotline and I'll tell you, 'Don't do that.'"