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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 Markle Board of Directors redirected Markle’s mission to focus on the potential of Information Technology to address some of the nation’s most challenging issues in the areas of economic security, national security and health care. 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 these areas and in internet policy.
Ms. Baird deeply believes in the collective power of diverse leaders working together, and in her first years at Markle she developed 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’s collaborative recommendations have been embodied in law to create a trusted information sharing environment for national security, while protecting traditional civil liberties, and to enable the use of health IT for the private and secure sharing of health information to improve health and health care.
She is currently leading Rework America, a Markle Foundation initiative of diverse national leaders including CEOs, university presidents, elected officials, technology experts, and community leaders focused on creating meaningful work and more paths to opportunity for all Americans. In her preface to their collectively authored book, America’s Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age, Ms. Baird outlines an action agenda to leverage technology and globalization as powerful tools to navigate the digital economy.
As part of Rework America’s agenda, Markle joined with LinkedIn, Arizona State University, edX and many other partners to build Skillful, a new skills-based labor market platform. Skillful expands opportunities for Americans without college degrees. It creates transparency around skills needed for fast growing and good paying jobs, access to training and insight into career paths that value people’s skills rather than degrees. Skillful includes online and offline tools to connect middle-skill job seekers with employers and educators so they can find ways to continuously succeed in this rapidly changing economy.
Ms. Baird was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to be the founding co-chair of the Secretary’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors. In this role, Baird and other leaders in technology, business and civil society are addressing how government and the private sector can develop smart polices to ensure the digital economy works for everyone.
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 prepared 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 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 groundbreaking recruitment of in-house counsel from private law firms.
Ms. Baird served as Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Aetna Life & Casualty Company (1990–1996). She left her executive management role at GE for the task of leading a large legal department at Aetna 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. While at Aetna she founded Lawyers for Children America, which recruits and trains lawyers in private practice and corporate legal departments to represent abused and neglected children. It continues to be run by the Aetna legal department.
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), the International Competition Policy Advisory Committee to the Attorney General (2000), U.S. Representative to the G-8 Digital Opportunity Task Force (2000-2002), the Department of Defense Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee (2003-2004), and the National Security Cyber Awareness and Response Panel (2010–2011).
Ms. Baird is presently the co-chair of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors, a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the board of the New York City Ballet, an Honorary Trustee of the Brookings Institution, and a member of the Aspen Strategy Group.
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 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); and a member of the American Law Institute (1992–2010).
Businessweek named her one of the 50 Top Women in Business (1992), she was a World Economic Forum Global Leader of Tomorrow (1993), recipient of the American Jewish Congress’ Louis D. Brandeis Award (1993), and was included in the Silicon Alley Reporter 100 (2000).
Ms. Baird was the inspiration for the Wendy Wasserstein Broadway play, An American Daughter.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1952, Ms. Baird grew up as a daughter of a labor union official and office administrator. 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).