According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, while women make up 47% of the total US workforce, they are still severely underrepresented in STEM industries. Just 39% of chemists and material scientists are female, 16% of chemical engineers and just 12% of civil engineers. According to Tata Consultancy Services, women make up just 24% of the workforce in STEM fields. Even in Silicon Valley, renowned for its progressive attitudes in the workplace, women do not come close to matching their male counterparts in terms of numbers. At Google, for example, women make up just 30% of the company’s overall workforce. At Facebook, it’s a marginally better 32%.
There have been many reasons given for the gender gap in STEM, but one of the major drivers seems to be the perception that it’s just not women’s ‘thing’. This is partly due to the lack of publicity around women’s achievements in the sector, but women are still top of the pile at many of tech’s biggest companies, something that should have a tremendous knock-on effect on the leadership pipeline moving forward.
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
As Google employee No. 16, Susan Wojcicki became the tech giant’s first marketing manager in 1999, In February 2014, Wojcicki became CEO of Google-owned YouTube, the world's largest video platform, and was last year described in Time magazine as ‘the most powerful woman on the internet’. Wojcicki is testament to the idea that women can have both kids and a career, having had five children. She even argued that doing so made her better at her job, arguing that, ‘having the sum of both of those things going on in my life makes me a better mom at the end of the day, and I think it gives me really important perspectives in the workplace as well.’
Much of her ability to balance both can be put down to Google’s pro-women work culture, which provides expecting mothers with special parking places and all employees with 18 weeks paid parental leave. Something other companies should certainly seek to emulate.
Lucy Peng, CEO of Ant Financial Services, Alibaba Group
Lucy Peng was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Small and Micro Financial Services Group in 2013. Having since become known as Ant Financial Services, the company is now estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of $35 to $40 billion, and is expected to soon launch an IPO.
Abiliba has a distinguished record when it comes to hiring women into leadership positions. A third of Alibaba’s 18 co-founders are female, and the company’s powerful new partnership group, which essentially controls the company by nominating a majority of its directors, has a similar make-up. Peng’s name was even floated in the Chinese press as Alibaba CEO
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!
Marissa Mayer’s tenure at Yahoo! has not exactly been a bed of roses. However, to give her too much blame for the web giant’s failures would be wholly wrong. Mayer made all the right moves when she came in, investing heavily in mobile as she sought to move the brand away from desktop, buying stakes in a number of other sites such as Tumblr, and changing the culture to one that is now far more outwardly focused.
According to stock analytics firm MSCI, Mayer has taken home $78m since she was installed as CEO in 2012, and should she leave will take away somewhere in the reason of $60 million.
Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise
With an estimated fortune of $1.98 Billion, CEO and president of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a new company created in Hewlett-Packard's historic split in two in November 2015, Whitman is one of the leading women in tech. She is the only woman to have headed two large US public companies: eBay and Hewlett-Packard, and was the first female head of a leading Internet-based company. During her decade-long stint at eBay, she raised the online auction platform’s market valuation from $7.7 billion in 1998 to a high of $57 billion in 2004.
Whitman also ran as a Republican candidate for Governor of California, losing out to Jerry Brown in the 2010 California gubernatorial election, and was once widely considered among the most likely candidates to become the first female president.
Safra Catz, Co-CEO of Oracle
Safra Catz became co-CEO of software giant Oracle in September 2014. She's been richly rewarded with stock options and was last years highest-paid female executive in the US with $56.9 million in compensation - the same as male co-CEO Mark Hurd. The Israeli-born, Boston-raised executive joined Oracle in 1999, and has been credited with spearheading its aggressive acquisition strategy.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg joined the social media giant in 2008, becoming the first woman on its board four years later. She has also written extensively about the lack of females in leadership positions, once noting in a Ted talk that a big part of what held women back was their reluctance to take credit for their achievements, noting that:
‘Men attribute their success to themselves, and women attribute it to other external factors. If you ask men why they did a good job, they'll say, "I'm awesome. Obviously. Why are you even asking?" If you ask women why they did a good job, what they'll say is someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked really hard. Why does this matter? Boy, it matters a lot. Because no one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don't think they deserve their success, or they don't even understand their own success.’