Hello, We Really Do Need More Women in Tech
Could the next Mark Zuckerberg be a Marcia? That’s the question Glamour recently asked me, as part of an effort to throw some light on the disturbing lack of women in high-level tech jobs.
While things are a lot better in the digital industry than, say, in deep-sea fishing, it’s still a slow slog to equality in power, influence and money. Need proof? While women make up 48 percent of our workforce, they hold just 24 percent of the jobs in science, tech, engineering and math.
I’ve ranted about the problem on my blog, allthingsd.com. It reminds me, I’ve said, of an old short film featuring the Little Rascals: After not getting invited to a party, the little dudes of Our Gang decide to form their own group, called, comically, The He-Men Woman-Haters Club. In other words: No girls allowed!
It was wink-wink cute back in the 1930s, when Spanky huffed and puffed about keeping out Darla, but it’s not as a-dork-able when you look at the big Web companies today: Very few have a female CEO or women on their board.
So what’s the problem? That, as it turns out, is an incredibly complex issue with a range of reasons: Not enough women get advanced computer science degrees, much less funding goes to women-led start-ups, and some tech CEOs don’t practice gender diversity where the real power resides—in top corporate jobs.
The good news, though, is that The He-Men Woman-Haters Club was never able to keep Darla out for long. It’s certainly possible that the next great tech legend will be a woman. Now’s the time to make it probable. Meet the women who are doing just that.
“Women have a better understanding of what other women want.”
—Jess Lee, 29, cofounder, Polyvore
You know her work if… you’ve ever mixed and matched pictures of clothes on Polyvore.com to create a fashion layout that displays your personal style.
She got her start… “taking computer science courses at Stanford. I loved to program. My first job was at Google, where I was hired by VP Marissa Mayer.”
The great thing women bring to tech is… “a better understanding of what other women want. Women control most household purchases—a great opportunity.”
“Teaching someone to program is like giving them a superpower.”
—Hilary Mason, 32, chief scientist, Bitly
You know her work if… you’ve ever shortened a link on a social network like Facebook or Twitter. Mason was part of the team that created the software that does the shortening automatically for you.
She loves being a geek because… “it’s really fun and challenging to build things that have never been built before. Teaching someone to program is like giving them a superpower.”
Her fave tech tool is… “my Kindle. I’m also a huge fan of the NYCMate Android app; it’s my secret weapon for travel around the city.”
“Doing is the best way of learning.”
—Caterina Fake, 43, cofounder, Flickr and Hunch, and founder- CEO, 2bkco, a new software start-up
You know her work if… you’ve ever passed around photos on Flickr, to name just one example. Fake is a pioneer in applying networking tools to websites. “The primary use for the Internet, for me, has always been social—connecting with other people and sharing the things we’ve created.”
The best way for women to get their feet wet in tech… “is to just do it—building websites, starting companies and diving right into this field. Doing is the best way of learning.”
“It’s about creating something new…and blowing someone’s mind.”
—Kati London, 35, director of product, Zynga New York
You know her work if… you’ve ever played games like CityVille on Facebook or Drop7 or Words With Friends on your iPhone. London works with designers and engineers to develop games that connect people.
One bizarre thing she invented… “is called Botanicalls, a networked sensor that enables houseplants to make phone calls or tweet to request water, then thank their owners.”
She loves being a geek because… “it’s about creating something new, tackling the hard questions…and blowing someone’s mind.”
Julie Larson Green
“I always like to say that it’s chic to be a geek.”
—Julie Larson-Green, 49, corporate vice president of program management for the Windows division, Microsoft
You know her work if… you’ve ever clicked on an icon at the top of the window in Microsoft Office to open, save, undo, print, whatever. Larson-Green led the team that developed the company’s iconic “ribbon” toolbar.
She loves being a geek because… “you can have such a huge impact—more than a billion people around the world use Windows. Tech can solve anything we put our minds to. I always like to say that it’s chic to be a geek.”
The great thing women bring to tech is… “a different experience of what technology can do in daily life. If you like keeping up on fashion trends, for instance, you’d see the business possibilities in things like flash sales.”
Stacy Brown Philpot
“When women are involved, the decision-making is better.”
—Stacy Brown-Philpot, 36, director of owned and operated properties, Google
You know her work if… you’ve ever forgotten your password and Google retrieved it for you. Or if you made a suggestion about Google and saw it put into action. She manages the 400-person team that collects user feedback from help centers, forums and blogs to improve Google products.
The great thing women bring to tech is… “diversity of thought. I’ve been in meeting rooms where we’ve had a good balance of men and women, and the decision-making there was so much better.”
We can get more women into tech by… “having teachers make math and science fun. My high school calculus teacher, Mr. Poterala, did that. I grew up in inner-city Detroit, and I don’t think I would have made it out if it weren’t for great teachers like him.”
Her fave tech tool is… “Baby ESP. I had my first child in July; this Android app lets me track things like nursing, bottles, weight and diaper changes, and links to my Gmail account so I can send the info to my baby’s doctor.”