CEO and President, Markle Foundation
Co-chair, REWORK AMERICA, Markle Economic Future Initiative
Co-chair, Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age
Member, Markle Connecting for Health Steering Group (Ex-officio)

Zoë Baird joined the Markle Foundation as its president in 1998, after a diverse career as a prominent lawyer and public policy expert.  At the start of her tenure, as the Internet was poised to become mainstream, she and the Board of Directors redirected Markle’s mission to focusing on realizing the potential of information technology to address previously intractable public problems, for the health and security of all Americans. Ms. Baird’s experience in law, government, and business, along with a lifelong commitment to building a strong and fair nation for generations to come, has led Markle to drive transformative change in the areas of Internet Policy, National Security, and Health.

Ms. Baird deeply believes in the collective power of diverse leaders working together, and in her first years at Markle she developed initial collaborations to expand access to the Internet in developing countries and worked to ensure public representation in global Internet governance processes. Markle created for the G-8 Heads of State the Digital Opportunity Task (DOT) Force, the first multi-sector collaboration that included nonprofit leaders with business and government, and inspired similar multisector collaborations at the United Nations. Over the past decade, Ms. Baird has led Markle’s collaborative efforts to reform the intelligence community to meet current threats and catalyze improvements in the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. Markle collaborative recommendations have been embodied in law to create a trusted information sharing environment for national security, while protecting traditional civil liberties,1 and to enable the use of health IT for the private and secure sharing of health information to improve health and health care.2 She is currently leading the development of a new Initiative to find opportunities for renewal of the American Dream in a networked world by leveraging technology and advancing public and private leadership and individual action.

Prior Career

Early in her career, Ms. Baird clerked for U.S. District Judge Albert C. Wollenberg (1977–1978) and worked as Attorney-Advisor, at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel (1979–1980), where she wrote legal opinions for the Attorney General and the head of that office on the constitutionality of government actions or on conflicts between agencies. There she came to the attention of the Counsel to the President, Lloyd Cutler, who brought her over to the White House as Associate Counsel to President Jimmy Carter (1980–1981). In this role, Ms. Baird advised the President on national security matters such as U.S. exports of enriched uranium to India and the release of hostages from Iran, as well as on certain domestic policy issues. Following the White House, in 1981, she joined O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., where she worked on a diverse portfolio of Supreme Court cases and international trade matters. She left her partnership at O’Melveny in 1986 when hired by Jack Welch to join the GE legal department, where she was Counselor and Staff Executive and in that capacity handled critical legal matters and management of the department (1986–1990), as well as participating in the recruitment of new in-house counsel from the best private law firms.

Ms. Baird served as Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Aetna Life & Casualty Company (1992–1996). Ms. Baird left her executive management role at GE for the task of leading a large legal department and being part of the Chairman and CEO’s management team during a challenging time in the insurance industry. During this time, Ms. Baird was President Clinton’s initial nominee for United States Attorney General (1993). Following her tenure at Aetna Life & Casualty Company, she served as Senior Research Associate & Senior Visiting Scholar at Yale Law School (1997).

Throughout her career, Ms. Baird was an active volunteer with non-profit organizations and worked on a number of congressional, senatorial and presidential campaigns.

Board and Awards

Ms. Baird’s government experience also has included membership on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1994–2000), the Congressional Commission on Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community (1995), the Department of Defense, Defense Science Board, Summer Study on Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction (1997), the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships (1997), and U.S. Representative to the G-8 Digital Opportunity Task Force (2000-2002). Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appointed Ms. Baird to the Department of Defense Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee (2003-2004). Ms. Baird was also appointed by the Director of the National Security Agency to his Advisory Board Cyber Awareness and Response Panel (2010–2011).

Ms. Baird has served on the boards of several companies, presently the Chubb Corporation and Boston Properties. She is an Honorary Trustee of the Brookings Institution and a member of its Nominations and Governance Committee, a member of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group and the Aspen Strategy Group, an Advisory Board Member for the Lloyd N. Cutler Center for the Rule of Law at the Salzburg Global Seminar, and Board Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ms. Baird founded Lawyers for Children America, which represents abused and neglected children.

She served on the board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (1998–2003) and she also chaired the National Board of Advisors of the American Jewish Congress (1994–1998). Ms. Baird also served as Director, Institute of Judicial Administration, New York University School of Law (1992–1999); member of the International Competition Policy Advisory Committee to the Attorney General (2000); member of the New York Stock Exchange Legal Advisory Committee (1992-2005); Director, James Baker Institute for Public Policy (1997–2005); and Director, Save the Children (1997–2006). She also served as a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on National Security (2004-2006); Director, King Hussein Foundation (2000–2008); a member of the American Law Institute (1992–2010); and a member of the Trilateral Commission (2009–2012).

Businessweek named her one of the 50 Top Women in Business (1992)3, she was a World Economic Forum Global Leader of Tomorrow (1993)4, recipient of the American Jewish Congress’ Louis D. Brandeis Award (1993), and was included on the Silicon Alley Reporter 100 (2000)5.

Ms. Baird was the inspiration for the Wendy Wasserstein Broadway play, An American Daughter.6

Family and Education

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1952, Ms. Baird grew-up as a daughter of a labor union official and office administrator. At first encouraged by her father to study typing in high school, the transformational power of the women’s movement and dynamic dinner conversations of politics and public policy led her to choose an education in law. Ms. Baird graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Berkeley, with an A.B. with highest honors in Political Science, and Communications and Public Policy (1974). She went on to earn a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California Berkeley (1977).

Ms. Baird has two sons and is married to William Budinger.
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  1. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the Protect America Act of 2007.
  2. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
  3. “50 Top Women in Business”, Bloomberg Businessweek, Accessed January 15, 2013, http://www.businessweek.com/stories/1992-06-07/50-top-women-in-business.
  4. “The Global Leaders of Tomorrow Community”, World Economic Forum, Accessed on January 15, 2013, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GLT_ClassOf1993.pdf.
  5. “The Silicon Alley Reporter 100: 10 Years Later, Where Are They Now?”, Betabeat, Accessed January15, 2013, http://betabeat.com/2011/03/silicon-alley-where-are-they-now/sa-39/.
  6. “Wasserstein’s American Daughter Opens April 13”, Playbill.com, Accessed on January 15, 2013, http://www.playbill.com/news/article/33617-Wassersteins-American-Daughter-Opens-April-13.