Former CEO and President, Markle Foundation;
Former Member, Markle Board of Directors
Zoë Baird is the former CEO and President of the Markle Foundation, joining as its President in 1998 after a diverse career as a prominent lawyer and business executive. In October 2022 she stepped down from her role at Markle to join the Department of Commerce as Senior Counselor to Secretary Gina Raimondo.
In this role, Baird will focus on expanding employer-based training and apprenticeship programs throughout the country. She will also help advance U.S. competitiveness in key technologies and ensure broadly shared economic benefit from new technologies, including by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Under Baird’s leadership, Markle formed the Rework America Alliance, a nationwide partnership of civil rights groups, nonprofits, private sector employers, labor unions, educators, and others, working to get people who have not completed college into better-paying jobs with opportunities for career growth.
Also under Baird’s leadership, Markle established a nonpartisan Rework America State Network, comprised of 30 governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia, to modernize the labor market at a scale and pace not possible through individual state actions.
Previously, Baird led Markle’s collaborative efforts to reform our nation’s approach to intelligence and law enforcement after 9/11 to protect the country against terrorism while protecting civil liberties. Markle’s recommendations have been embodied in law and moved a need-to-know framework to a trusted information sharing environment. This work influenced the EU’s approach to terrorism as well. She originated and led U.S. participation in the G-8 Digital Opportunity Task Force in 2000, which was a public-private collaboration between the G-8 and developing countries to make the Internet globally available. Baird established Markle’s Connecting for Health initiative, which catalyzed improvements in the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare and framed implementation of the HiTech Act and the transformation of consumer access to personal health information.
Baird has extensive experience domestically and internationally. Early in her career, 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.
She moved to work for Counsel to the President, Lloyd Cutler, as Associate Counsel to President Jimmy Carter (1980–1981). She subsequently joined Warren Christopher at O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., where she worked on a diverse portfolio of Supreme Court cases and international matters. She left her partnership at O’Melveny in 1986 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 initiating groundbreaking recruitment of in-house counsel from private law firms.
Baird served as Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Aetna Life & Casualty Company (1990–1996). During this time, Baird was President Clinton’s initial nominee for United States Attorney General (1993). Following her tenure at Aetna, she was Senior Research Associate & Senior Visiting Scholar at Yale Law School working on global cooperation to prevent terrorism (1997).
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.
Government and Private Boards and Awards
Baird served on President Biden and Secretary of Commerce Raimondo’s National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee and Chaired its Working Group on International Cooperation (2022).
She was co-chair of the Department of Commerce Digital Economy Board of Advisors to the Secretary of Commerce appointed by Secretary Pritzker (2016–2017), member of 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 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).
Baird is currently a member of the Board of the New York City Ballet; Aspen Strategy Group; Aspen Philanthropy Group. She served on the Advisory Board for the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Kennedy School, Harvard University (2021-2022); and was a senior trustee of the Brookings Institution (2007- 2022).
Baird served on the Board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (1998–2003) and chaired the National Board of Advisors of the American Jewish Congress (1994–1998). Ms. Baird also served as a member of the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations (2013-2018); 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).
Family and Education
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Baird grew up in the Seattle area as a daughter of a labor union official and office administrator. 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 earned a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California Berkeley (1977). She is married and has two children and two step-children.