Yes, "she." The rush to predict the successor to departing CEO Dick Costolo has focused on the usual suspects: mostly Twitter insiders and almost all men. But if the company really wants to transform itself and its industry, it should look beyond those narrow lists (dare I call them very thin binders?) and pick a smart, experienced woman.
Most important: Of course, Twitter can't and shouldn't hire a woman just to hire a woman. Yes, diversity is nice and noble and makes companies healthier in the long run, but this is a $24 billion public company we're talking about, which means that it also needs a new chief executive who can solve its shorter-term profitability problems. Fortunately, Twitter is looking for a new CEO at a time when there are several qualified, senior women executives with experience running social media companies to choose from. Some of the ones named below would be difficult to get onboard; some are more known outside of Silicon Valley than others. But all have the chops.
And think of the other advantages, Twitter: You'd reverse the negative reputational problems that come with having a much-discussed lack of diversity. That includes a board that appointed its first woman director two years ago, and persistently terrible diversity numbers throughout the company. Only 30 percent of Twitter's overall work force and 10 percent of its tech workers are women, the company disclosed last summer, at the behest of an industry data project started by Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou. (And why haven't you hired her for some sort of leadership role yet?)
If your next CEO is female, you'll have hired someone who's likely been subject to online harassment, especially its more extreme forms. Isn't that the sort of person you want solving that very big problem?
Finally, you'd be single-handedly making Twitter a leader rather than the also-ran of the social media industry. Its growth is regularly compared, unfavorably, to that of Facebook; it's currently seen as something Google might want to purchase. But if Twitter hires the right CEO and she just so happens to be female, the company could be the hero of a new story, one about changing the way that success is viewed in Silicon Valley.
A few ideas to get you started:
Ellen Pao: The interim CEO of Reddit is already taking on that company's online harassers. She knows how to run a social media network that's famously contentious and often hostile to women, and she's making other changes there, recently implementing a ban on salary negotiation. (The practice frequently undercuts women, who are less likely to successfully bargain up their pay packages.) She also single-handedly created a new level of awareness about the institutional sexism facing women in Silicon Valley, with her high-profile, ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against her former employers, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.
Megan Smith: The chief technology officer of the United States, all 320 million or so of us. Twitter's 302 million active users would be a piece of cake by comparison, especially to a woman who learned to lead at Google, where she helped run new business development and GoogleX. The downside? Serving at the pleasure of the president means she's probably not available until late next year.
Susan Wojcicki: The CEO of YouTube and employee No. 16 at Google "has quietly become one of the most powerful media executives in the world," The New York Times wrote in December.
Sheryl Sandberg: An obvious choice perhaps, but the chief operating officer of Facebook knows how to run a social network that has run rings around Twitter.
Other suggestions from colleagues and sources include: Lorraine Twohill, Google's global head of marketing; Arianna Huffington, who is likely looking for her next media project; and Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code.
That's a few hours' worth of spitballing. Costolo doesn't hand off the reins to interim CEO Jack Dorsey until July 1--giving Twitter's board more time to find and hire their ideal next CEO. They can, and should, do even better.