Female Leadership & the Transformation of Traditional Tech Culture
Uber recently made headlines (again) when CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the company. Despite founding Uber and leading it to its current position as the leading ride-hailing service, Kalanick has been blamed for helping create and perpetuate a culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
While certainly an extreme example, Uber is unfortunately not the exception in the tech industry. Long dominated by men, the tech industry has a reputation for gender inequality. In fact, as recently as 2015, it was estimated that “less than 5 percent of venture capital investment in startups today goes to women chief executive officers, and less than 5 percent of VC partners are women.” Even in 2017, only 10 percent of positions at major tech firms were filled by women.
Enriching Corporate Culture
In spite of the this trend — or perhaps because of it — female leadership is increasingly affecting traditional tech culture. In many ways, women in tech are increasingly viewed as possessing distinct advantages over their male colleagues.
Because so many have experienced discrimination in the field, women in tech tend to have a unique persistence and determination to succeed. Rather than being put off by challenges, many women leaders in tech display a perseverance well suited to an industry that’s often intense and fast-paced. Additionally, women executives are often perceived as being more results-driven than their male counterparts. According to Vicki Huff Eckert with PwC, “44% of women CEOs are extremely concerned about uncertain economic growth (compared to 33% of male CEOs).”
Women also tend to have a more strategic approach to solving problems. Writing for Forbes, Glenn Llopis recounted the observation a female mentor once gave him: “A woman’s lens of skepticism oftentimes forces them to see well beyond the most obvious details before them. They enjoy stretching their perspective to broaden their observations. Many women are not hesitant to peel the onion in order to get to the root of the matter.”
With leadership differences like these, it’s no wonder that despite statistics that show only 10 percent of investor funding goes to women-led companies, those companies earn an estimated 12 percent higher revenue and deliver a 35 percent higher ROI. Here are a few examples of women leaders changing the tech world for the better.
Making a Difference in Tech Leadership
Megan Smith is perhaps one of the most prominent examples of female representation and disruption in tech. Best known for serving as the first woman U.S. CTO under President Barack Obama (from 2014 to 2017), Smith is also the former VP of Google X and a former VP of Google’s business development. While at Google, she founded Google’s Women Techmaker’s program, a diversity initiative providing resources and encouragement to women in the industry.
Payal Kadakia, CEO of ClassPass, transformed her company’s focus from being a search engine for fitness classes to a sophisticated service offering unlimited classes at a wide range of gyms for a flat fee. Under her innovative leadership, ClassPass bought its closest rival and raised $84 million in funding.
Adriana Gascoigne, founder and CEO of Girls in Tech — a non-profit “focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of girls and women who are passionate about technology” — hasn’t just made a name for herself in the tech world: she’s helped countless other women and girls do the same. According to their website, “GIT aims to accelerate the growth of innovative women entering into the high-tech industry and building startups. We achieve this through the creation of proprietary, innovative programming and strategic global partnerships.”
Last but certainly not least, our own CSO, Lisa Calkins, has been widely recognized for her leadership and innovation.
Leaning into the Future
And these four women are just a few examples; smart, talented women in tech are beginning to dismantle “the boys club” perception of the industry — a perception based largely on reality. More and more companies are taking notice, too. For instance, Intel pledged $300 million in support of a more diverse workforce, while Apple donated $50 million to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.
Of course, there’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to gender diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry (let alone other forms of diversity). Ultimately, however, tech companies will benefit more and more as the industry embraces the leadership and innovation of women.