Gender And Tech Companies: Where Are The Women?

Google’s Marissa Mayer is profiled in a Q&A interview in Newsweek. It’s both about her past and about women in technology — why there are so few of them in Silicon Valley engineering roles.

Mayer says she never really encountered any obstacles as a female computer science/math student at Stanford. She also discusses Google’s early efforts to recruit women to create “gender balance” in the company. Mayer estimates that Google has somewhat more female engineers than the norm in Silicon Valley:

What percentage of engineers in Silicon Valley are women?

It hovers somewhere around 15 to 17 percent in the technical areas, but here at Google we are slightly higher than that. We’re at about 20 percent.

There’s one woman on Google’s executive team — Mayer is on Google’s “operating committee” along with Susan Wojcicki — and two female members of Google’s board of directors. Both are from outside the company.

Kara Swisher at AllThingsD previously sought to call out and “shame” some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent companies for having no women on their boards: Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and Foursquare, among others. She emphasizes that while former Googler Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook and attends board of directors meetings she’s not a formal member of the board.

The absence of women at the top of tech and internet companies represents something of an “Achilles heel” or vulnerability — or at the very least a missed opportunity. Just over 50 percent of the North American internet audience is female according to comScore. Women also spend more time online than men. But more significantly women make up to 85% of household buying decisions.

Below is a video from a “TED talk” given by Facebook’s Sandberg broadly discussing why there are so few women leaders.

Postscript: I was informed by Google that there are actually four women on the operating committee: Marissa Mayer, Shona Brown, Susan Wojcicki and Rachel Whetstone.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Google: Business Issues

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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