Women are underrepresented in the field of engineering and technology in many ways which have highlighted systemic inequalities in education and preparation. Engineering and technology jobs are some of the strongest growing markets today, and women’s presence is needed to secure balance and support in innovation of new technologies.
In 2015 women were present in 57% of all professions, but only represented in 25% of computing occupations. These statistics become extremely stilted when adjusting for minority women. With the new push to prepare America for strong representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) positions there are many concerted efforts to increase women’s presence in technology.
This raises many questions in the interim: What factors are inhibiting women from success in this field? What educational barriers do women face? How can women be supported to overcome these limitations? In which companies is gender discrimination prevalent? What presence do women have in executive positions in technology? Who are women leaders in the field of technology today? What companies have a record for supporting women and which do not?
Information technology earnings statistics (2014) Source: DOL
Men typically earn more than women in the technology field. According to the following data from the US Department of Labor, men enjoyed higher median weekly earnings in 2014 than women.
|Occupation name||Median weekly earnings (men)||Median weekly earnings (women)|
|All occupations | 46.9% women||$871||$719|
|Computer and information systems managers | 26.7% women||$1,763||$1,529|
|Computer systems analysts | 34.2% women||$1,460||$1,259|
|Information security analysts | 18.1% women||–||–|
|Computer programmers | 21.4% women||$1,447||$1,253|
|Software developers, applications and systems software | 19.8% women||$1,736||$1,457|
|Web developers | 35.2% women||$1,245||$988|
|Computer support specialists | 26.6% women||$1,049||$837|
|Database administrators | 28.0% women||$1,662||–|
|Network and computer systems administrators | 19.1% women||$1,286||–|
|Computer network architects | 12.4% women||$1,650||–|
|Computer occupations, all other | 23.1% women||$1,122||$984|
Just a problem for women?
Women’s underrepresentation in technology is not just a problem for women, but presents a problem for America’s competitive ability. In 1985 women were responsible for 37% of computer science degrees, but due to the challenges explored here, that number has dropped to only 18% today.
Research has found that gender diversity supports sustainable progress in any industry, as diversity has demonstrated strong team dynamics, productivity, and innovation. Researchers have found diversity functions as a support to teams performing under budget, on schedule, and with marked employee performance.
Fundamentally, if the current trends for women in technology continue America could be left without the capacity of a strong strategic resource of diverse intellect, application, and ability. This loss could directly affect the nation’s placement in this growing field, whose long-term capacities are virtually unbounded. Since information technology and engineering innovation are the new theater of national security, this lack has implications which cannot be ignored.
This post will answer the key questions presented in the introduction as well as look at the top women leaders in technology today. Limitations may be present in this industry, but the women who have succeeded in the industry present new inroads for overcoming challenges which can be applied to those women seeking to break into the field, and those students dealing with challenges today which could derail them from expanding diversity in technology.
The leading women of tech
Marissa Mayer (Yahoo)
Marissa MayerSource: VF
Marissa Mayer is best known for her position as CEO of Yahoo. Before leading Yahoo, Mayer was key in the development of Gmail, Google News, Google Earth, and Google Maps during her tenure at Google. Mayer holds a BS in symbolic systems and an MS in computer science from Stanford University.
Currently the CEO at Yahoo, at the time of her appointment she became one of 20 females running a Fortune 500 company. When hired at Google she was their 20th employee and their very first female engineer. Mayer earned her promotion from her decade of time working with Google, and establishing some of their most successful projects. Mayer was key in the development of Gmail, Google News, Google Earth, and Google Maps. However, while at Yahoo, she believed in healthy competition as well as healthy challenges for herself, and that is why she has tenaciously dedicated herself to making Yahoo a force to be reckoned with during her time there.
After facing some challenging years at Yahoo, Mayer will be leaving the company in 2017. The last couple of years have not been kind to Yahoo. The company has endured multiple large-scale cyber attacks putting customer private data at risk, along with some failed acquisition ventures. Yahoo was purchased by wireless giant Verizon in 2017, and will be merged with AOL to create a brand-new company called Oath.
Mayer is the daughter of an art teacher and an engineer, and from early on she revealed strengths in math and science. Her natural intellect and passion for innovation enabled her to succeed anywhere, and during her time at Stanford University computers became the focus of her passion. Specializing in artificial intelligence, Mayer earned her BS in symbolic systems, and her Masters in computer science. Prestigious internships at SRI International and UBS in Zurich would earn her the experience to be offered 14 jobs as soon as she graduated. The 14th offer was from the founders of Google, and the rest is history.
Virginia Rometty (IBM)
Virginia “Ginni” RomettySource: Fortune
As IBM’s first female CEO, Rometty has been integral to the company’s success since she joined in 1981. She also serves on the board of trustees at the prestigious Northwestern University, the school from which she graduated with a BS in computer science.
The first female CEO of IBM, Rometty has been integral to the company’s development since 1981. Rometty takes the long view with IBM, considering her career path to be linked with IBM to the degree that when revenue dropped in 2013 for the seventh consecutive quarter, she chose not to take her end of the year bonus. A strong leader, and believer in rewards should follow success, she inspired her executive team to do the same. Those resources were eventually funneled back into making IBM as profitable as it is today as the world’s leading technology firm.
Rometty earned her computer science BS with high honors from Northwestern University. She now serves on the board of trustees for Northwestern, the board of overseers/managers for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and on the Council on Foreign Relations. During her time as IBM’s senior vice president she oversaw the successful acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, which was the largest acquisition in professional services history. Rometty’s message for the next generation is,
“One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. And you define who you are. I never think of myself as being a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution.”
Anne Wojcicki (23andMe)
Anne WojcickiSource: BI
Anne Wojcicki is the CEO and co-founder of 23andMe. Prior to starting the company, Wojcicki earned her BS in molecular biology from Yale University and worked as a healthcare investment analyst.
CEO and co-founder of the personal genomics company 23andMe, Wojcicki supported this innovation through her background in biology. Her father was a professor of physics at Stanford, her mother was an educator, and her sister is the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki. She earned her BS in molecular biology from Yale University, and began her career as a healthcare investment analyst.
23andMe may sound a lot like Ancestry.com, but it actually offers more. Aside from ancestry history, 23andMe also analyzes your DNA. It can go as far as tell you how certain things can actually affect your health based on the data found in your DNA, like how your body might metabolize caffeine for example.
Through her interest in research she continued to analyze the role of genes in human behavior, and named 23andMe after the fact that 23 pairs of human chromosomes make up a normal cell. Focusing on genetic testing, biotechnology, and personal genomics Wojcicki has been called the most daring CEO in America due to her invention of a rapid genetic testing kit.
Keeping very down to earth and framing innovation as all in the day of women’s work, Wojcicki said,
“I need to solve the problem. It’s no different from how am I going to get my son out the door when he needs to go to school. It’s a bigger version of that same type of problem.”
In this way brilliance is placed on the same footing in which the daily concerns of many women struggle to find and make meaning. Wojcicki emphasizes that the two worlds of motherhood and high powered CEO need not be separated.
Isabel Ge Mahe (Apple)
Isabel Ge MaheSource: BI
Isabel Ge Mahe is one of Apple’s highest-ranking female employees. She serves as vice president of Apple’s iOS wireless software and has contributed code for Apple’s apps, maps, and music services. Mahe earned a BS in electrical engineering and MSE in wireless communications from Simon Fraser University. She also holds an MBA from the University of California Berkeley.
VP of the iOS wireless software, Mahe is one of the brains behind the business strategy which enables Apple’s iPhones to be so indispensable, contributing code which allows for maps, apps, and music to run efficiently. One of the highest ranked female’s working at Apple, Mahe is paving the way in this boy’s club. Earning her BS in electrical engineering and her MSE in wireless communication from Simon Fraser University.
Mahe also earned a MBA in general management from the University of California, Berkeley. Along with her demanding position at Apple, Mahe serves as an Industry Advisor for the EE/CS Department at the UC Berkeley, and an advisor for the Silicon Valley-China Wireless Technology Association for the past 16 years.
Before taking on the Apple challenge, Mahe worked as Vice President of Wireless Software Engineering for Palm Inc, and a CDMA System Architect for AirPrime Inc. As a young Asian developer, Mahe has served as a trendsetter and code breaker throughout her career, putting in the hard work which innovation and continued success demands. Those who work with her report that her energetic and unfailing passion for excellence keep everyone poised to do their best.
Meg Whitman (eBay)
Meg WhitmanSource: BI
Meg Whitman is the former CEO of e-commerce giant eBay. Under Whitman’s leadership, sales at eBay increased from $86 million per year to over $7 billion per year. Whitman has since become CEO of Hewlett Packard.
Whitman was a successful CEO of Ebay before transitioning into the struggling Hewlett Packard. Upon beginning at the e-commerce startup, Ebay sales went from $86 million in her first year to over $7 billion in her final year a decade later. HP, since under Whitman’s wing came out of its early slump unable to compete with the two computer giants, and has since had consistent revenue and a stronger stock position.
Whitman tried her hand at running for public office in California before engaging in her career in technology, but did not win her election. Growing up in New York, she is the daughter of a Wall Street financier, and a stay at home mom. Graduating from high school a year early, Whitman’s intelligence put her on the fast track early on.
Studying at Princeton University she earned a BS in economics, and completed her MBA at the Harvard Business School. Addressing the many challenges for women in tech, Whitman said
“Remember that you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anyone say, ‘You’re not smart enough… it’s too hard… it’s a dumb idea… no one has done that before… girls don’t do that. ‘My mom gave me that advice in 1973. And it allowed me to never worry about what others were saying about my career direction.”
Diane Bryant (Intel)
Diane BryantSource: UCD
Diane Bryant is the senior vice president of Intel’s Data Center Group. Before overseeing a $10 billion team at Intel, Bryant earned her BS in electrical engineering from UC Davis – a major that she selected for its lucrative rewards.
Senior Vice President running Intel’s Data Center Group, Bryant is a rags to riches story. Her father had a strict on your own when you are 18 policy, and she became homeless her senior year of high school because of it. However, Bryant persevered, stayed with friends, and got a job which would support her through going to the local community college.
Unlike many of the female leaders in this list, Bryant came from unexpected beginnings, and chose to study technology with the sole intention of earning more money, a resolution she says she now has misgivings about. However, as a result, she now runs a $10 billion team at Intel. Commenting on this pathway, Bryant admits
“If you get a degree in engineering, you’re going to land a job, you’re going to make great money…But diversity is incredibly important when it comes to innovation. There are lots of women strong in math and science, but they’re just not going this route.”
To make her way in a man’s world, Bryant admits she adopted masculine traits and habits in order to blend in as a minority in tech/engineering. Thriving through her example, Intel has made the goal of spending $300 million to help women integrate into the tech/engineering fields.
Susan Wojcicki (YouTube, Alphabet)
Susan WojcickiSource: Sheva
Susan Wojcicki (sister of Anne Wojcicki) is the CEO of YouTube. Wojcicki previously served as the chief of advertising at Google where she managed the emergence of Google Analytics, DoubleClick, AdSense, and AdWords. Wojcicki studied history and literature at Harvard University before earning an MS in economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MBA from UCLA.
Before becoming the CEO of YouTube, Wojcicki was the chief of advertising for Google, which has gone on to become the most valuable company in the world. Managing the emergence of Google Analytics, DoubleClick, AdSense, and AdWords, Wojcicki innovated the function of Google Images. Understanding the dearth of women in technology was a weak point in the industry she loved, Wojcicki wrote an open letter to girls encouraging them to get into the action, and illustrating the many ways tech companies are of assistance. She emphasizes,
“Though we do need more women to graduate with technical degrees, I always like to remind women that you don’t need to have science or technology degrees to build a career in tech.”
Wojcicki knows this from her personal experience as she studied literature and history at Harvard, and economics at the University of California. After renting out garage space in her home to the newly formed Google Inc., she translated her more generalized studies into the precision apps which allowed Google to become the force it is today. Utilizing her experience studying economics in the context of history, Wojcicki understood strong businesses are made up of strong alliances, and she spent her first period at Google overseeing the purchase of many startups in precision advertising.
Emily White (Snapchat)
Emily WhiteSource: Fortune
Emily White is the former COO of Snapchat. She established her reputation as an innovator during her tenure at Instagram and participation with Facebook. White studied at Vanderbilt University where she earned her BA in fine and studio arts.
COO of Snapchat, White is a consummate innovator, and support’s Wojcicki’s assertion of diversity in education history with her Vanderbilt University BA in Fine and Studio Arts. Whenever she finished the innovation and implementation of a new product she is quick to move on to the next challenge. Building on the innovations of the past, she has earned a reputation as a groundbreaker who paves the way for new initiatives. From her roots at Instagram, participation with Facebook, and key role at Snapchat, White has begun a new project, Mave.
On the rising cusp of the tech fascination with artificial intelligence, Mave is a personal concierge website which has the potential to be an aware system of managing user’s needs. The project is currently in development and beta-testing, but with White’s track record has the capacity to challenge the other tech forces fixated on AI. One of the youngest faces on this list of women leaders in tech, White is a keen example of the power of confidence mixed with a keen sense of what one’s generation is hankering for.
Katie Jacobs Stanton (Twitter)
Katie Jacobs StantonSource: TC
Katie Jacobs Stanton served as vice president of social media at Twitter. She’s also served as the head of Twitter’s global media. Before entering the tech industry, Stanton worked at the State Department as the First Director of Citizen Participation under the Obama Administration. Stanton earned a BA in political science and government from Rhodes College and a master’s of international affairs from Columbia University.
Stanton has worked as the VP of Social Media for Twitter as well as the head of Global Media for Twitter. She also has a strong history with Google and Yahoo. Before the tech industry, she worked at the State Department in the White House under the Obama Administration as the first Director of Citizen Participation. Integrating her focus on the benefits of free-flowing communication in foreign policy Stanton’s focus at Twitter was to create strategic partnerships across Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe. As a result 77% of Twitter’s handles are now outside the US, encouraging an international voice.
Stanton earned her BA in Political Science and Government from Rhodes College, and her Masters of International Affairs from Columbia University. Her innovative history in technology has led to her current participation as Chief Marketing Officer for Color Genomics, a genetics testing and counseling group which seeks to make this process more affordable in the hopes of rooting out hereditary cancer. Color Genomics aims to expand genetic counseling as a part of everyday purchases in order to help people match their genetic needs to their purchasing practices for greater longevity.
Lisa Falzone (Revel Systems)
Lisa FalzoneSource: HP
Lisa Falzone was the CEO and co-founder of Revel Systems, a company that enables iPads to be used as point-of-sale devices. Under her leadership, Revel Systems blossomed from an idea shared on a blog with a soon-to-be business partner into a company with 750 employees across the globe.
Co-founder and CEO of Revel Systems, Falzone is one of the brains behind the point-of-sale systems which enables iPads to become cash registers and printers. This allows small businesses to do all their analytics and organizing from an iPad, and enables great leaps of freedoms for independent small businesses. In order to bring Revel Systems online, Falzone raised $115 million dollars through venture capitalism, and from these beginnings the company has grown to include over 750 employees around the world.
Studying for a time at Oxford, Falzone finished her education at Stanford University. During her time at Stanford she swam competitively, but had to quit this pursuit after an injury. Always on the lookout for challenges, now that Revel Systems is strongly underway, Falzone has left the company to beginning seeding her newest challenge. Falzone has won many accolades for her success with Revel, such as:
- Business Insider named Falzone in their 21 Hottest Women-Founded Startups to Watch in 2017.
- In 2016 Falzone was named as a Top Female Entrepreneur by Ernst & Young, was listed as one of Business Journal’s “Upstart 100”, and was named one of 40 Female Founders who Crushed it in 2016 by TechCrunch.
- In 2015, Falzone was recognized by Fortune Magazine as no. 19 on the 40 Under 40 list as well as the Forbes list of Eight Rising Stars.
Companies working to support women in technology
This computer giant ranked number one in 2010 in the DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Global Diversity. IBM has a long history of honoring diversity, for as early as 1935 the company actively sought out 25 female graduates to build their tech division. However, still ranking number one, due to the lack of qualified women for STEM positions IBM has 30% of its workforce as women, but 29% are in senior management positions.
To address this lack IBM has invested in many programs supporting women in STEM education. However, IBM has received blowback when some of their executives were overheard saying it was a bad idea to hire women because they get pregnant over and over again.
Research into this bias towards maternity has emphasized that nearly 40% of managers avoid hiring women to avoid paying maternity leave, and medical procedures associated with pregnancy. This is an issue that will have to be creatively addressed to uproot the core of the double-standard.
Transition to teaching
This IBM program is a hybrid of community service and education activism. This program allows IBM employees the opportunity to gain full accreditation in teachers of STEM subjects.
P-TECH is an education curricula for grades 9-14 that enables qualified students to graduate high school with an associate’s degree which will allow them early access to the competitive computer sciences’ field while continuing their education. IBM supported the creation of four schools to fulfill this demanding curriculum in 2012, and is the lead partner for the sister school, the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy. More good things to come not only from this partnership, but from the effective model it is an example of. IBM also has a hand in supporting: KidSmart Early Learning Program, Teachers TryScience, Reading Companion, and SME Toolkit.
Although Google has only 30% of its employees being women, they are one of the hardest working companies to change these numbers, creating opportunities for women to excel in technology and engineering. Google executives questioned about the imbalance of women in their company emphasize that not as many women get degrees in computer science, and that the market has forced them to hire the talent where it is. This is one reason Google has begun many programs to help women earn the degrees they need to compete in STEM.
Funded by Google, Girlstart is a grant program which seeks to expand STEM education into at risk populations around the United States. Seeking to provide after school programs for at risk teens, this program is looking for innovative ways to keep girls on track for STEM positions. So far Girlstart has been a national leader in the running with many programs which seek to support this initiative.
Google RISE Awards
The Google RISE Awards focuses on supporting emergent computer science education to meet the 2020 estimation of 1 million new, unfulfilled jobs in the U.S. and over 800,000 in the EU alone in the field. Computer science education opportunities are not equitable across demographics at this time, and this program seeks out those qualified students who may be unable to access the quality education, training, and opportunity they need to compete. To accomplish this the Google RISE team acts as a networker connecting nonprofits globally with each other, and supporting them in advantageous ways.
Pairing the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) activism group, the TechWomen Initiative is Google’s efforts to nurture cross-cultural collaboration to expand the potential impact of STEM investment. This program is a five-week mentorship experience where women from the US are paired with leaders in STEM fields from the MENA region, which allows for not only training and preparation from a unique perspective, but a chance for cultural competence. Attempting to balance the heavy reliance on technology, this initiative emphasizes the power of face-to-face exposure, the necessity of relationships, and the power of collaboration.
According to Glassdoor, Amazon is one of the few tech companies where women are currently earning more than men:
“Women: $96,425, average 1.8 years of experience;
Men: $95,000, average 1.6 years of experience.”
Contrast this with the earning differences at HP:
“Women: $91,730, average 9.8 years of experience,
Men: $96,423 average 8.5 years of experience.”
This significant difference in salary, experience, and sexual factors emphasize the plight for many disenfranchised demographics. In order to support the expansion of this equitable culture and ensure a stronger future.
Amazon has created Amazon Women in Engineering (AWE). Currently 30 chapters strong, this program seeks to connect industry leaders with community advocates for equality in STEM. AWE hosts Amazon’s international diversity conference, AmazeCon, and continues to expand their outreach for helping girls remain in the STEM career path.
Oracle is now the second largest software company in the world, and while their numbers of women employed may not at first appear to shake up gender roles in the workplace, their actions speak otherwise. Knowing that diversity is the building block of real competitive strength, Oracle donated $200 million in support of Computer Science Education for All, and $3 million to help support STEM outreach via Let Girls Learn.
Oracle’s global workforce diversity Source: Oracle
Oracle is striving for greater diversity within its workforce. Though less than one-quarter of the company’s technical employees are female, Oracle has begun long-term efforts to foster diversity within the company.
Oracle CEO, Safra Catz, said
“It takes 25 years to build a computer engineer, not 25 hours, so we need to get started.”
The long-term support of greater diversity is one of the reasons that women who do work there now report high levels of satisfaction.
eBay reports some of the highest numbers of diversity and inclusivity in the business. While there are reports of some difficulty for women thriving in the company, these concerns are met with an open ear and the willingness to improve. eBay promotes the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) in the hopes of nurturing tomorrow’s tech leaders. In house, the WIN program has enabled eBay to double the presence of female leaders in their company through the precision training involved.
eBay employee diversity Source: eBay
In addition to being a leader in the tech industry, eBay is committed to having a diverse workforce. At present, one in four leadership roles in the company is held by a woman.
Through their program eBay Inspire!, young women are exposed to the possibilities of STEM careers in a cross between community engagement and mentoring. Young women are invited to spend time with the top technology leaders at eBay and gain first hand exposure to the benefits and challenges of the field.
Tech companies that need to do more to support women
For some time, Microsoft has suffered bad press for their attitudes towards women in the field, but their numbers do not reflect this. However, that only emphasizes how misleading numerical data can be. According to their most recent diversity report women make up 26.8 of their total global workforce, and 27.2 of their leadership team.
Human resources and press managers are attempting to balance this out through attempting to place five women and ethnic minorities on the board within the next year. This was a reaction to the company’s CEO telling a female employee it was bad karma to ask for a raise, and the scandal of hiring scantily clad young girls as dancers for their near all male tech dinners.
DigiGirlz High Tech Camp
This tech camp is one of Microsoft’s attempts to help girls get inspired for the STEM career early on. Targeting girls 13 and up, this three-day camp exposes girls to tech tours, workshops, and encourages the forging on new relationships which could nurture a stronger STEM pathway for diversity. Research director for Microsoft, Rane Johnson-Stempson emphasizes,
“During the camp, we work to dispel the stereotypes of the high-tech industry and help girls overcome fears that technology is ‘geeky’ and not for girls.”
Hewlett Packard (HP)
Hewlett Packard has caught the same flack as other tech giants for being a white boys club, and they are working to change this image as are all these companies. As of 2013, HP female workforce was 32.5%, 25.6% of management positions held by females also. HP has a reputation of having inadequate benefits and compensation for all but the top positions.
However, HP does not have a strong record of supporting STEM innovations through donation and sponsorship. Once this was recognized, HP began Ascend, a sponsorship program seeking to support high-performing female employees in house. A Women’s Innovation Council was also recently started to address the lack of opportunities for women at HP.
Taxicab-rival Uber, has been slow to get on board the diversity train. The movement to disclose diversity statistics has been growing for years, but one of the last companies to share their data was Uber. After the most recent sexual harassment suit and embarrassment, the company disclosed its rate of women employed in the tech department at 15.1%, one of the lowest in the industry.
This imbalance of women may be one of the reasons that women at Uber have unilaterally agreed sexual harassment in rampant in the company. This came to light after a site reliability engineer published a long blog which detailed how she had experienced sexual harassment. After going through the appropriate channels to report it to HR, she was informed the company would not punish the offender because he was a high performer. After moving to legal support of her claim, and getting the CEO involved, other women in the company came forward about the unjust work climate.
The growing need for diversity in STEM fields
The imbalance and lack of women and ethnic minorities in the tech industry is a problem which was not perceived as a problem until the cost of lack of diversity hit the bottom line and that quivering bottom line threatened perceived security. Diversity breeds complexity, and complexity builds resilient strength. The world is becoming more technologically minded, and the new lingua franca is becoming the language of coding. While STEM jobs have some of the highest grossing potential, the need for diversity is rooted in the need for local talent which will strengthen the political position which technology now stands for.
In America, and around the world diversity is outpacing the Caucasian male majority of the past. While there are many programs out there to support women in STEM positions, women and girls will still have to confront and overcome lingering stereotypes one by one as they arise. Educators would do well to dispel myths of gender stereotypes, and increase gender and cultural competence at every level of education to ensure that subtle biases are not slipping into the formative curriculum which will directly influence how girls choose to focus their many talents.
As the numbers in this report shows, data does not speak for itself, and it is the power of context and suggestion which imbues numbers with meaning. This possession and humanizing of statistics is one of the strengths women have, as the successful women in this blog show, seeing opportunity for innovation where some only saw a wall of limitation. Diversity builds on the many perspectives, and for the United States to compete for the advanced perspective of tomorrow diversity will be the crucial cornerstone.
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