Facebook appoints American Express CEO to board of directors

Facebook announced today the addition of Kenneth I. Chenault, CEO of American Express, to its board of directors. His appointment becomes effective Feb. 5, 2018.

“I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a press release. “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 sense of social mission and integrity I admire and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”

Chenault, who joined American Express in 1981, has been chairman and CEO of the massive financial services company since 2001. In addition to serving on Facebook’s board, Chenault serves on the boards of IBM, Procter & Gamble, the Harvard Corporation and others.

Unlike Facebook’s other board members, Chenault is black. In fact, Chenault is the first black person to serve on Facebook’s board of directors.

“I’m delighted to join the board and look forward to working with Mark and the other directors as Facebook continues to build communities that help bring people closer to friends, family and the world around them,” Chenault said in a press release.

Last October, the Congressional Black Caucus met with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to discuss the need for black people at the top. At the time, Sandberg reportedly said Facebook would soon appoint an African-American to its board of directors.

African-Americans are unfortunately rare to see on tech companies board of directors. Industry-wide, there were only three black people and one Hispanic person sitting on the boards of directors at 20 major tech companies in 2014, according to a survey by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

One of those numbers increased in 2015, when Apple added James Bell, an African-American, to the company’s board of directors. Bell, while not the first black person to serve on the board, is the only black person currently serving on Apple’s board of directors. A major tech company without any African-American nor Latinx people on its board of directors is Alphabet.