It's been an oft discussed issue: the lack of women in executive management positions in the technology industry. I don't really have an answer to this other than to say the industry in general has to mature a bit because the go-go-go and vaguely frat boy culture of most technology organizations makes them unappealing to lead for many women. I think, for that reason, a lot of women choose not to take part in the management of them, regardless of how well qualified they are. It's mostly a cultural, not an expertise issue from my perspective. I believe culture creates far more difficult barriers to change than anything else in organizations - and it is mostly un-articulated and not proactively considered or facilitated in so many companies.
But women are obviously in the tech industry and a recent TechCrunch article Why Women Rule the Internet really bothered me because it was quite focused on the opportunity for women in online shopping. While that is an opportunity, there is so much more - and so many more important aspects of the technology market - that women are also involved with. But the leadership challenges remain.
Having gone to one of the Seven Sister colleges what I know is that a hugely disproportionate percentage of leaders in politics and other industries are graduates of women's colleges. Women's college graduates:
- Make up 1/3rd of female board members of the Fortune 1000
- Are twice as likely to earn Ph.Ds
- Are 20% of women in Congress
But women's college graduates only make up only about 2-4% of all women graduates. Clearly while women can receive a great education at many places, these schools do a better job at preparing women for leadership positions.
The problem with women's leadership in technology? Women's colleges like my own Alma Mater, Mount Holyoke, have been almost completely absent from the discussion despite educating Jean Sammet who helped develop FORMAC and Susan Kare who designed the first Macintosh graphics.
Traditionally, computer engineering and information technology has not been seen as a liberal arts discipline but with the advent of socially mediated technology as well and its ubiquity in everything we do, I think it is high time that women's colleges took on the challenge of educating and preparing women for leadership positions in technology. In fact, another recent TechChrunch article spoke about the need for both engineering and liberal arts backgrounds to be represented in order to build world class technical solutions and stated that only 37% of technology executives and heads of product have engineering degrees. This jives with my experience that only a portion of executives in the technology companies I've worked for come from engineering.
So where are the women's colleges in this field? Mount Holyoke, I'm looking at you.