Valerie Jarrett Is The Latest Black Woman To Join A Silicon Valley Board
Valerie Jarrett, described in 2014 as the most powerful black woman in White House history, has joined Lyft’s board of directors, making her the latest staffer from the Obama administration to enter the ride-hailing world.
Lyft is banking on Jarrett’s previous experience as chairwoman of the Chicago Transit Board to help tackle “the problems and opportunities related to urban transportation,” according to a press release.
One of President Barack Obama’s longest-serving advisors, Jarrett was his assistant for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs.
In May, Twitter added Debra Lee, the CEO of BET, to its board of directors.
Tesla, which has been criticized by some investors for a lack of independent directors, recently added to its six-member board Linda Johnson Rice, CEO of Ebony Media Operations and chairwoman of Johnson Publishing Company. Like Lee, Rice brings extensive media experience to the board.
Jarrett is the Lyft board’s second female and first independent board member. She’s joining a nine-member board that includes Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer; Ann Miura-Ko, a partner at venture capital firm Floodgate; Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz, GM President Dan Ammann and Sean Aggarwal, an investor and the former CFO of Trulia.
Jarrett is an adviser to the Obama Foundation and on the board of Ariel Investments, a money management firm in Chicago, CNN Money reported.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was hired by Uber in February to investigate allegations of sexism. A Lyft competitor, Uber has had a slew of public relations disasters and cultural problems that recently led to CEO Travis Kalanick being fired by the Uber board of directors. Uber was criticized for doing business at New York’s JFK airport during Donald Trump’s travel ban — a move perceived as undercutting protest efforts.
Lyft says 2017 has already exceeded 2016 for number of rides, according to a press release. Lyft recently raised $600 million in capital at a $7.5 billion valuation for a total of $2.6 billion-plus raised to date.
Lyft CEO Logan Green said in a statement, “Valerie is one of our country’s foremost leaders and a distinguished public servant, and a natural fit for our board.”
Jarrett’s addition to the board could mitigate tensions between the public sector and private car sharing services, Essence reported:
Just as other companies have done in the sharing economy, such as Airbnb and Uber, Lyft’s latest move appears to be aimed at creating relationships with government agencies.
With advocates around the globe concerned that car sharing pushes out regulated taxis and competes with cities’ public transit, adding a political veteran to its board may warm city governments up to their expansion.
Jarrett’s influence in the Obama White House cannot be underestimated. Obama said he consulted Jarrett on every major decision, something aides corroborated, New Republic‘s Noam Scheiber wrote in a November 2014 report:
“Her role since she has been at the White House is one of the broadest and most expansive roles that I think has ever existed in the West Wing,” said Anita Dunn, Obama’s former communications director. She has placed friends and former employees in important positions across the administration—“you can be my person over there,” is a common refrain.
Jarrett said in a Lyft statement that she is a frequent Lyft passenger and has been inspired by the strong community Lyft has created — one dedicated to “enlightened corporate values”:
“We share a belief that reliable, affordable transportation positively impacts social mobility, and improves the quality of life in densely populated communities. I am thrilled to join the ride.”
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