American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault becomes Facebook’s first Black board member

The move opens up a new chapter for Kenneth Chenault. The 66-year-old will retire as AMEX's CEO on February 1.

Kenneth Chenault Facebook
Kenneth I. Chenault (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times)

Facebook has named American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault to its board of directors.

According to USA Today, Chenault is “one of the nation’s most prominent black corporate leaders” and the first African-American board member at Facebook.

The move opens up a new chapter for Chenault. The 66-year-old will retire as AMEX’s CEO on February 1.

It’s been a long time coming

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement that he had been after Chenault for a position on the board for some time.

“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.”

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It’s a good step toward diversity for an industry giant and comes after civil rights leaders have long called on Silicon Valley to add more people color to their leadership.

The tech industry in particular has a history of being made up almost entirely of white and Asian men.

The lack of diversity isn’t entirely down to a lack of candidates for the job. Research shows that Black and Hispanic students of technology and computer engineering were graduating at half the rate companies were hiring them.

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Tech companies like Facebook are aware of this divide and are taking steps to diversify. Hopefully, Chenault will be able to bring better ideas for how to inject a little more color into Silicon Valley. It’s a step in the right direction, and we’ll be watching to make sure they keep that momentum.