All-girl schooling helps tech success

PETER BURROWS AND DIANE BRADY
Last updated 10:55 10/06/2014
Marissa Mayer
Reuters
MORE SMART WOMEN: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer isn't the only woman in the tech industry with the skills to serve on company boards, says Lise Buyer.

Relevant offers

Women of Influence

Lesley Elliott wins Women of Influence top award Navy women rise through the ranks A mind-cleansing journey Stories to tell young women More women in NZ boardrooms Award-winner stands on the shoulders of giants Lesley Elliott tops Women of Influence awards Tough path to top for airport boss Calling of the wild in city's heartland Heaphy in Women of Influence finals

Attending an all-girls college can keep women on the technology track, a panel of women investors and executives said at Bloomberg's Next Big Thing Summit on Monday in the United States.

The panelists at the Women & Tech Next Wave session in Sausalito said that being in a same-sex academic environment erased some of the stereotypes and stigmas that prevent girls from pursuing a passion for technology.

"It makes you realise how important it is to look at the environment we create in our schools," said Bahija Jallal, who heads up MedImmune, a biotechnology company that was acquired by AstraZeneca.

Debate over the technology industry's diversity has been fuelled by a recent report from Google that disclosed just 30 per cent of the world's largest search engine's 50,000 employees are women. Companies including Facebook, Twitter and Apple have also either faced investor pressure or criticism about the lack of women in key positions.

Last year, 74 per cent of US workers in computer and mathematical occupations were men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In software development, a fifth of the jobs were held by women.

In a blog post on May 28, Laszlo Bock, Google's senior vice president of people operations, highlighted the lack of qualified female technology experts, citing a US Department of Education study that found women earn just 18 per cent of computer-science degrees in the US.

At the Bloomberg conference, Citigroup chief innovation officer Deborah Hopkins said she was struck by how few women-led ventures come to her for funding and added that there is plenty of talent for those who want to find it.

Lise Buyer, a principal at Class V Group, a consultancy for emerging companies, took issue with the notion that there aren't enough qualified women to serve on the boards of technology companies.

"Everybody says they want a Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer," said Buyer, referring to Facebook's chief operating officer and Yahoo! Inc.'s CEO respectively. "You know what? They're busy, and there are a lot of other women who have the skills you need."

The discussion made clear the impact that stereotyping continues to have.

Caroline Pugh of fitness-technology startup VirtualU Inc said in most of her meetings with venture capitalists, the men would turn to her for marketing questions and ask her male co-founder about the technology behind their product, "even though I'd be sitting there with the specs".

Ad Feedback

Eileen Tanghal, of Applied Materials' venture capital arm Applied Ventures, recalled one trip to Japan with male colleagues where people assumed she was the translator or an assistant, even though she was the technologist and one in charge.

"You can't take it personally," she said. "If anything, it makes you more memorable."

Networking with other women executives is key to success, said Caroline Ghosn, co-founder and CEO of Levo League, a network that links young women to each other and to mentors. Levo is working with companies to help them set up internal networks to keep people engaged and aware of opportunities within their own firms.

- Washington Post/Bloomoberg

Comments

Special offers
Opinion poll

Do you think there should be more paid parental leave time?

Yes, lots

Yes, a bit more

No, it's fine

Vote Result

Related story: Call to means test paid parental leave

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content