Facebook All But Ignores Protesters at New York Headquarters

UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas prepares to deliver the petition.

NEW YORK, NY – The handful of protesters that gathered in front of Facebook’s office on Madison Avenue at noon was disappointed when the company refused to accept a petition signed by 53,000 users asking the company to include women on its board of directors.

Protesters gather outside Facebook's NYC office.

“The entire company is driven, in large part, by women,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the online women’s rights group UltraViolet that organized the protest. “The majority of users are women, the majority of users who share on Facebook are women; and the fact that they couldn’t find a single woman to be a part of the highest level of their governing structure does not say great things about the company’s approach to women in leadership roles.”

(From left) NOW president Sonia Ossorio and Joyce Johson

The group has targeted Facebook because they are “so much on the front lines of tech innovations in so many different areas,” said Thomas. “This is a real opportunity to for them to be a leader on this issue and to show the tech industry that women belong in these roles at the highest level.”

Thomas arrived with a box containing the signatures she and her team had collected online. “I hope they’ll accept them gracefully and agree to respond to the 53,000 users of theirs who think that they need to reconsider their board structure,” she said, but the Facebook representative who came outside to address the protesters ultimately left Thomas holding the box.

Members of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) were also on hand, carrying signs and chanting, “What do we want? Women on the board! When do we want it? Now!”

Marie Wilson, co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work ® Day

NOW president Sonia Ossorio told the crowd, “I’m tired of trying to explain why women need to be on boards.” Police officers later asked Ossorio to clear the sidewalk to let other pedestrians through.

The demonstration attracted several distinguished guests. Joyce Johnson, who is running for Congress in New York’s 13th District this year, held up signs alongside the protesters to show her support.

Hunter College professor Bill Herman

She was joined by women’s advocate Marie Wilson, who pioneered the Take Our Daughters to Work Day movement in 1993. Wilson reminded the crowd that Facebook’s all-male board was merely one example of an industry-wide problem. “We need to start young in getting women into technology,” she said. Wilson also commended Sheryl Sandberg, who has served as Facebook chief operating officer since 2008, for her leadership in a male-dominated industry. “Diversity in a complicated world is what you need,” she added.

Professor Bill Herman, who teaches in the Film & Media Department of Hunter College in New York City, was one of several men who were present at the event. “Facebook is making decisions that show it is tone deaf to the changes in our society,” he told the protesters.

While demonstrators were disappointed by Facebook’s silence on the matter, they remained outside the building, undeterred. Said one protester, “This is just the first step.”