Last night, I set out on a mission to put together a list of 100 women who are changing the face of technology. This all stemmed from reading an article the other day on “Who will be the next Steve Jobs” in the Merc that managed to showcase a picture of all male, and yes, all white male executives. At first, I was PO’d that O’Brien left out any industry-shaking innovators sans a Y chromosome. I’m no feminist, and I recognize talent is business is judged by profits and quarter-over-quarter growth, but, come on, isn’t there one woman in the entire world that deserves to be on that list?
Well, to be fair, Apple isn’t exactly boiling over with women at the leadership helm. Jobs left behind an all-male leadership team. I also scoured the executive teams of the world’s top technology companies, public and private, in hopes to find friendly female faces. I’m not sure what the exact odds are, but it must be something like 1/1000 women to men on leadership teams in technology companies, unless you count HR, which tends to be mostly women.
Maybe Microsoft looks different…
Ok, maybe it’s just the old, stoggy tech companies that fail to have females on their executive teams. Facebook must have a few…
One. Sheryl Sandberg. An incredibly impressive woman who is Facebook’s COO. Not counting the HR department, that’s 1 out of 11 executives at Facebook that are female. Sandberg served as Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department, she was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company and an economist with the World Bank. She gives inspiring graduation speeches to young women, aspiring to change the world. Still, she’s Facebook’s COO (an important role indeed) but when it comes down to it, her boss — the one calling the creative and innovative shots — is a 27-year-old guy named Mark.
What surprises me most is that even the startups that you’d think would be founded by women (ie fashion, beauty-type startups) are more often than not founded by men. They often hire a spokesperson for the brand who is female, so the male leadership is hidden, but if you dig a bit you’ll see the XYC-suite. These companies are all founded by men: Ideeli, Pinterest, Sugar, Inc., Polyvore, ShoeDazzle, Glam Media, Etsy. (Notably, in the fashion/shopping startup space, a few actually were founded by women: Gilt Groupe, Rent the Runway, Wanelo, (FashionStake and Modcloth 1/2 XX))
While there are organizations such as Girls in Tech, Women2.org, and She’s Geeky around to help promote the next generation of female leaders, it seems the change is coming slowly. It took more than six hours last night to dig out 100 female technology innovators, and to be fair, some of them wouldn’t hold their own on a respective co-ed 100 list.
There are many, many reasons why women, as a whole, aren’t making it to leadership roles. This goes far beyond my own introspection on having to entirely reframe the way I relate with people and re-learn the meanings of assertiveness and self promotion. Maybe there’s some truth to how men, culturally or biologically, are driven by risk, and women are more risk averse. Or, men since they were boys have been given feedback along the way promoting their risks, whereas girls are often punished or criticized for the same behaviors. These are vast, sweeping generalizations, but they must hold some truth in this industry.
Tomorrow morning I’ll post my list celebrating 100 female thought leaders in technology. It’s certainly not a comprehensive list, but let’s just say totaling only 100, it’s much more comprehensive than it should be in 2011.