Before our attention was diverted with the blockbuster acquisition of Instagram, Facebook recently caught media attention for not adding any women to its board of directors. As a result, the women in technology leadership problem has been a hot topic around the blogosphere, which I read with avid interest.
Being a former engineer, I am used to working and leading in male-dominated companies. There were always some women in my working circles, so I did not notice a huge gender imbalance and never really gave it much thought. However, for the first time in my career I am working with a large team that has less than 15% women. Now I am noticing the difference. We would hire more women… if we found them on LinkedIn or they applied. There are just not that many women with the skills we need.
The following blog posts were the first that caught my attention:
- Google’s First Female Engineer (CSH Greenwich Middle School Parent Blog)
- Why women DON’T Care to Occupy Top Spots at Young Tech Companies (Cowgirls Don’t Get The Blues)
I enjoyed @skirtsocial’s point of view in the second article: it is not that women are not interested in technology leadership careers, we are just particular about where we choose to get involved. Her article was sparked by The Tech Ceiling (The Daily) and also references The Men and No Women of Web 2.0 Boards (All Things D, Dec 2010) and Where Are the Women Executives in Silicon Valley? (NY Times Bits, Dec 2011). They are all worth reading.
I applaud the first article mostly because of the blog on where I found it: a middle school parent’s blog. If we are going to encourage young women to not think about gender roles when deciding on a career, that’s where it starts. Marissa Mayer’s story is also a great one to share because where she ended up is not where she had planned when she started university, which is something that happens to most of us but most students don’t know. It’s worth reading the full article, originally published on the Huffington Post: Google Exec Marissa Mayer Explains Why There Aren’t More Girl Geeks.
At the same time, Dan Rockwell on Leadership Freak wrote an interesting series on the differences between women and men in leadership roles. While Facebook attracted attention to the technology sector, the gender imbalance in leadership roles is not just there. Getting women interested in technology is only one challenge. An even greater challenge is women rising to the top seats in any corporation. The discussion on these posts is fascinating:
- It’s Harder For Women
- Where Women Leaders Are Better Than Men
- Where Men Leaders Are Better Than Women
As I wrote in my own recent reflection on my career, the women in tech leadership problem is complex. There are no simple solutions. All of us in industry, both men and women, need to get involved. We all need to be role models. Girls also look up to their fathers, brothers, uncles, teachers and mentors and can choose to be just like them. We also need to help our school systems. Our impressions of career choices start in school and many teachers and guidance councillors have a limited view on the possibilities. I agree with @skirtsocial: how and where women choose to get involved will be our choice, but we should be excited about how many possibilities we have.
What are your thoughts on how we solve the women in technology leadership problem? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.