1. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
The research team consists of Pascale Diaine (Project Lead), Matthew
Farwell, Mark Plakias, and Natalie Quizon (Co-lead). We would like to
thank the following people for their contributions to this study. To our first
wave of interviewees who provided us with their time and experiences:
Ann Winblad at Hummer Winblad, Marissa Mayer at Google, Katherine
Barr, Sarah Lacy, Clara Shih, Kaliya Hamlin, and Shaherose Charania of
Women 2.0. We gratefully acknowledge our colleagues within Orange
who provided early feedback, some important introductions, and more
importantly their encouragement: Nathalie Boulanger, Roseline Kalifa,
and Beatrice Mandine. Finally we would like to thank Georges Nahon, the
CEO of Orange Labs SF who gave us the green light to explore this rich
history and vibrant present here in Silicon Valley -- one that deserves a
much wider recognition and visibility, which we hope this will in some
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2. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Table of Contents
Purpose & Methodology 4
Chapter 1: Past & Current Contexts 7
Chapter 2: The Women of Silicon Valley in Context
Chapter 3: The New Network 28
Chapter 4: What About The Media? 34
Chapter 5: Three Generations of Women and the
Postscript: Walk the Talk 58
Additional Notes & Acknowledgements 60
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3. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Purpose & Methodology
The genesis of this research report began at the beginning of 2009, but
it had been building for a long time before that. Orange Labs San
Francisco (OLSF) researchers and managers had been seeing more and
more activity in the Silicon Valley ecosystem being headed up by women.
Activity in the broadest sense: events, startups, influential blogs,
keynote presentations at major conferences, venture capitalists, CIOs
and CTOs at companies like Cisco and Adobe, Sun and Agilent. A core
group met to discuss what would be involved in a focused study about
the history, current status, and future of women in the cradle of high-
tech, Silicon Valley. The questions we asked included ones to which we
have been able to reach conclusions, and others which remain open
questions. A partial list of such questions we asked:
 Why are women under-represented in engineering schools?
 What are the contributions of women to Silicon Valley historically?
 Why do some women founders leave their company at some
 How do we weight the contribution of people-facing disciplines
where women are very visible vs 'things' orientation of male-
dominated fabrication and engineering?
 To what extent are the issues of 'work-life balance', 'glass ceiling'
and 'biological clocks' useful areas of study, and not just
stereotypical frames to control the conversation?
 Does Silicon Valley afford women greater opportunity? Is gender
less of an issue? Or, more of an issue given the geek culture of
 What role has the media played in celebrating the success of
'nerds' (typically young, white Ivy School engineering
graduates/dropouts) in obscuring women's contribution?
 What is the impact of gender diversity on innovation rates, on
Our initial kickoff meeting took place on January 7, 2009. One week later,
amidst an intense media circus, Carol Bartz, the very successful CEO of
Autodesk, was announced as the successor to Jerry Yang as the CEO of
Yahoo! Suddenly, a lot of other people in the Valley started to look
around at the role of women in tech.
The phrase "women in tech" has many facets to it. The research team
has taken a broad interpretation of the phrase, and offset this with a
strong focus on Silicon Valley, where the Orange Labs San Francisco
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4. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
facility regularly hosts interactions with the ecosystem, as well as
maintains an active schedule of attending external events and engaging
with the Silicon Valley tech community. Indeed, the growing number of
richness of networking events designed around the women in tech
theme was one of the impetus for conducting the study – a discussion of
the Network model for advancing Women in Tech is found in Chapter X.
The broad definition of women in tech encompasses over 30 years of
activity in multiple disciplines including:
Academia/Educ Engineering Product/Indu Marketing Manageme
ation strial Design nt &
Professors, Semiconduc CE, Internet PR, Events CEOs,
Post-Docs, tor, Services, design, CIOs,
Graduate Network Social media, Evangelism CTOs,
Students, equipment, Videogames, , Bloggers, Startup
Servers, Content Analysts, Founders,
Software Journalists VCs,
Scope, Methods, and Procedures
The primary mission of Orange Labs SF is to extract and interact with the
Silicon Valley ecosystem in order to drive innovation that benefits and
aligns with FTGroup's strategic objectives. This framing allowed the
team to focus its study of the broadly-defined definition of 'women in
tech' shown above on the area of Northern California stretching from
San Jose in the south to San Francisco to the north – what the world
knows as Silicon Valley. As noted above, the chronological scope of the
study was the period spanning the '80s to the current time, which
demographically encompasses the generations known as Boomers
(born post-WWII), "GenX (born post-1965), and "GenY" (born post-1977).
Before exploring methodology of the research, a word about the team.
The principal investigators for the Women In Tech study, entitled Her Code:
Engenderiong Change in Silicon Valley, are both women, with diversified
backgrounds. They were assisted by two men. Collectively, the team
spanned all three generations covered in the report's scope, and
- Cultural anthropologist - GenX
- Wireless software engineer - GenY
- Market researcher - Boomer
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5. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
- Multimedia intern – GenY
The methodology used in the study consisted of both primary and
secondary research sources. These can be summarized as follows:
- Secondary sources consisted of a traditional literature search for
academic papers and news articles. In addition to the standard
literature search, the team focused on a corpus of trade and
business publications to conduct some preliminary content
analysis studies, in connection with the questions of bias in
representation of gender in technology reportage1.
- Primary sources consisted of several observational venues, as well as
direct interviews. Direct observation and engagement within the
WIT (Women in Tech) ecosystem of Silicon Valley is part of the
ongoing mission of Orange Labs SF researchers, so this activity
was readily to be incorporated into the study.2 The other primary
source was direct interviews with WIT personae, including high-
visibility executives, VCs, developers, and bloggers active in the
The results of many of the interviews are available in edited form as a
short video documentary accompanying this report.
Procedurally, the team set as an objective to conduct the research and
production processes using innovations wherever possible. From a tools
and a rhetorical perspective, we deliberately sought to avoid established
clichés and legacy methods. Instead of circulating source materials and
drafts by email for example, we used Google Notebook, a cloud-based
collaborative resource, to log links and resources, create lists, and
objectives. As noted, we incorporated videography from Day 1 into our
primary methodology, which allowed us to frame questions that cut
across all three generations of respondents. And finally, speaking of the
three generations, we sought a framing mechanism that would
transcend the all-too-abundant stereotypical frames of Work/Home,
Parity/Inequality, Mentoring/Appropriation, and many other memes -- all
of which have some grounding in experience, but too often dead-end in
obscuring the amazing accomplishments of women in tech.
The framing we selected is both appropriate to Silicon Valley, and
reflective of the ascendant place for women in the 21st century of the
Networked Economy. By locating the three generations of women
innovators with respect to the evolution of the Internet, we believe we
have created a fresh perspective that provides a global outlook, values
diversity, re-examines the role of technology itself, calls for a shared
responsibility, and most importantly, is open to all.
Publications such as InformationWeek, ComputerWorld, CIO Magazine.
This included 'camps' and other 'unevents' such as Girls In Tech, She's
Geeky, Woman 2.0; see Chapter 4 for detailed discussion.
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6. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Chapter 1: Past & Current Contexts
In this opening chapter we review the historical literature about women's
accomplishments in computing generally, with a specific focus on Silicon
Valley as it emerges as a locus of activity post-WWI.
I. The Secret History: Past Achievements of Women in Tech
The history of women in tech goes as far back as computer technology
itself. In the 1840's, English mathematician Charles Babbage created the
idea of a programmable computer. Called the "Analytical Engine," it was
capable of computing complex series
of equations. Ada Lovelace, also a
mathematician, was one of the few
people to fully understand Babbage's
idea. Given time to study Babbage's
notes, Lovelace developed an
algorithm for generating a complex
series of numbers using the Analytical
Engine. As such, many consider her the
first computer programmer. Clearly,
Ms. Lovelace was ahead of her time,
as the computer was not fully realized
until close to one hundred years later.
The first modern computer came to
fruition in 1946. Called the Electronic
Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), it was capable of
computations far exceeding that of any of its predecessors. It was
quickly discovered that the ENIAC had severe shortcomings, namely the
fact that it took weeks to map a problem from paper to program. A team
of computer scientists, led by Adele Goldstine solved this dilemma by
developing a modification that cut the reprogramming time on the ENIAC
from days to hours and effectively shaped the future of computing as we
know it. Called the Stored Program Computer, it was the model for future
computers and showed them as something both powerful and efficient.
In the next twenty years, the power and prevalence of computers
increased exponentially. The language in which they operated – machine
code – was esoteric and in need of change. In 1959, Grace Hopper, a
computer scientist employed by the United States Navy posited that
computers could operate on a language closely resembling English. It
was from this theory that one of the world's most popular computer
languages – COBOL – was developed. Hopper was also integral in the
standardization of COBOL in 1968. It was around this time that Barbara
Liskov challenged the paradigms of academic institutions and enrolled in
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7. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
the Computer Science doctorate program at Stanford University. She
was the first female Ph.D. recipient of a Computer Science degree in the
Many of the advancements made in technology in the 1970's were
coming out of a swath of land in Northern California that was aptly
named "Silicon Valley". It was here that software was designed,
semiconductors were built, and venture capital firms sprouted up to fund
many of these innovative ideas. A hotbed of technological
advancements, it wasn't long before women starting making their
impressions felt in Silicon Valley. Because of companies like Apple and
Microsoft, personal computers were becoming a reality for many people.
They were small and cheap enough for the average person to afford and
their software greatly enhanced the lives of users. With this ubiquity
came a bevy of data that was quickly becoming unmanageable. To the
forward-thinking, computers and software were the wave of the future.
In 1976, a computer programmer by the name of Ann Winblad foresaw
the growing need for financial accounting software and co-founded Open
Systems, Inc. with a $500 investment. Six years later, Ms. Winblad sold
Open Systems for $15 million dollars.
By 1985, computer scientist Radia Perlman invented a network solution
called "Spanning Tree Protocol" that would automatically back-up broken
links and reduce downtimes in Local Area Networks. Prior to Perlman's
discovery, if a LAN failed it would remain in stasis until someone manually
remedied the problem. This was the same year that Sandra Lerner,
along with her husband Len Bosack, starting hand-assembling the first
Cisco routers in the living room of their Silicon Valley home.
The late 1980's was the beginning of women moving beyond the roles of
engineers and scientists to become the founders and heads of some of
the worlds most influential and powerful technology firms. In 1988, Eva
Chen co-founded Trend Micro, an anti-virus software company that
today has a market value of over $5.5 billion and is one of the largest
software companies in the world. Not long after her, Ann Winblad again
used her foresight and expertise to co-found Hummer-Winblad Venture
Partners, the first venture firm focusing specifically on investing in
software companies. Ms. Winblad is considered Silicon Valley's first
female venture capitalist and is featured in the accompanying video,
“Three Generations of Women Leaders in Silicon Valley.”
In 1992, software company Autodesk was floundering and in need of
change. They looked to Sun Microsystems’ Carol Bartz to lead them in a
new direction; to say she succeeded would be an understatement.
Under CEO Bartz, Autodesk became the leading provider of computer-
aided design software and established itself as a global powerhouse.
By the late-1990's, Silicon Valley had firmly entrenched itself as the world
capital for innovation. Technology's growth began to pervade many
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8. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
aspects of consumers lives. The internet, in particular, was a
phenomenon being experienced, exploited, and enjoyed by millions
across the globe. One company that aimed to leverage the power of the
internet was eBay, a small e-commerce start-up with only 30 employees
and relatively limited funding. Seeking to grow from an innovative idea to
a viable business, in 1998 eBay tapped Meg Whitman to lead it to new
heights. It's interesting to note that prior to eBay, Ms. Whitman had a
very limited technical background. Where she excelled was in
management, and under Whitman, eBay grew to become the world’s
foremost authority in online auctions, serving millions of users and
generating billions of dollars in annual revenues.
The same year that Ms. Whitman joined eBay, Diane Greene co-founded
virtualization firm VMware. In a few short years VMware became the
market leader in software virtualization, serving 99 of the Fortune 100
companies. Just one year later, a couple of Stanford engineering
students revolutionized internet search and advertising with Google.
Their 19th employee and first female engineer was Marissa Mayer, a
fresh graduate of Stanford with a keen eye for design. Ms. Mayer, who
also appears in our accompanying video, quickly ascended the ranks of
Google to her current role as Vice President by leading the design of
Google's user interface and managing the proliferation of such services
as Gmail and Google News. Also in 1999, HP appointed Carly Fiorina as
CEO. This capacity made Ms. Fiorina the first ever female CEO of a
company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In this capacity, Ms.
Fiorina triggered the acquisition of Compaq and saw HP reestablish itself
as one of the market leaders in personal computers.
By the turn of the century, the dot-com bubble had burst and many
technology firms were reeling. Xerox, an established enterprise with
decades of industry service was not exempt. With their business flailing,
embroiled in scandal, and on the brink of financial insolvency they
installed longtime employee Anne Mulcahy as CEO. Ms. Mulcahy is
credited with saving Xerox from a seemingly certain demise and in 2008
was named Chief Executive of the Year by her fellow peers.
As we will discuss later in this report, one of the most important
technological developments in the past five years has been the
proliferation of social networking sites. Their utility cannot be denied and
their exponential growth cannot be ignored. Very few anticipated this
trend as well as Gina Bianchini, CEO and co-founder of Ning.com. Ms.
Bianchini, who is featured in our video, has been at the helm of Ning
since the beginning and has overseen a company which has raised over
$100 million in funding while boasting in excess of 1,000,000 custom
social networks and millions of unique visitors.
Clearly, the aforementioned women have
played a key role in shaping the
technological landscape as we know it.
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9. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Later in this report we will profile some of today’s most influential and
powerful women in technology. Included are such success stories as
Yahoo's Carol Bartz and Cisco's Padmasree Warrior. They are today’s
example of women leaders, who though relatively small in number have
left an indelible mark on the history of technology and computing. One
can only surmise that this will continue as technology forges its path
ahead, though the contributions will continue to be limited if something is
not done to remedy the disparity that exists when it comes to the gender
balance of the industry as a whole.
II. State of Emergency? Computer Curricula and Women
Our review of the literature reveals a strong bias towards framing
the discussion about women in tech around traditional analytical
frameworks of educational, governmental, and cultural dimensions. From
the classroom to the boardroom, abundant statistics show an alarming
trend in regards to the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology,
Engineering, Math). For instance, a study released by the Computer
Research Association shows that Bachelors of Computer Science
degrees awarded to women in 2008 were a paltry 11.8 percent3. It is no
less surprising then that computer science has the dubious distinction of
being the only science field to see a fall in the share of its bachelor's
degrees granted to women between 1983 and 2002. The numbers are
slightly more encouraging at the Master's level, where women account
for 23 percent of CS degrees.
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10. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
2% of Open Source
proprietary software of Silicon Valley
developers are female. companies have a
female board director.
of Computer Science bachelors
degrees are awarded to companies are run by
As one may expect, low enrollment of women in CS programs equates to
low involvement of professional women in the tech-sphere. Currently,
men outnumber women in tech positions by an average of four-to-one4.
With the amount of CS degrees being awarded to women approaching
an all-time low, it is becoming increasingly clear that these new positions
cannot be filled only by women trained in the classical sense – at
universities offering computer science disciplines.
Figure 1, Bureau of Labor Statistics
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11. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
"It does require evenings
and weekends. Open-
source communities are
global and work around
name and title
As Leah Culver, of Pownce and SixApart, notes in our project
video, only two percent of Open Source developers are women. This is
an alarming figure, especially given the traction the Open Source has
been gaining both with the Linux and Android operating systems. We can
posit two reasons for such meager involvement. First, and perhaps most
evident, is that Open Source communities are notorious for long and
irregular hours, something that puts a significant strain on the work-life
balance. For women planning to have children this can be a significant
The second reason is far more troubling, essentially suggesting
that some men in Open Source tend to view women as innately inferior
and will at times voice their opinions in neither a professional nor polite
manner5. Strides are being made to combat these issues by creating
women-focused groups in Open Source communities, but still more must
be done to lessen the gender gap . Much like the number of bachelors
vs. Masters CS degrees, a 26 percent female involvement rate in
proprietary software6 seems on the surface a good thing when
compared to that of Open Source. However it may simply reflect
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12. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
commercial realities where paid software licensing models create more
economic and organizational activity, versus the more innovative and
community-based activity of the open source software movement.
Later in this report we will present a more nuanced view of
the problem statement than visible in these one-dimensional statistical
time series. Moving beyond the educational and occupational
frameworks is important if we want to appreciate the true extent of the
female contribution, both historical and emergent. We close this opening
chapter with a preview of how a more expansive outlook – one that
embraces today's global technology platforms – provides an alternative
perspective to the insider/outsider, glass ceiling frames that have
dominated the discussion to date.
III. Changing Patterns: Technology attitudes and use among Girls
There exists a significant body of literature seeking to explain the
scarcity of women in technology-related fields. While there is no
definitive answer, there are strong arguments to be made that it begins
at a young age, when perceived notions regarding technology are
ingrained in young girls' minds. One theory states that as children, boys
are much more likely to play video games and engage with toys such as
Lego's that require building and spatial attention. Karen Lemone of the
University of British Columbia believes that if more girls were exposed
and encouraged to such activities at a young age, they would be far
more inclined to develop an interest in a field such as computer science7.
Another widely-held belief is that there is a stigma attached to
computers and technology that says they are boring and fit only for the
exceptionally smart and nerdy. Perhaps it can also be attributed to a lack
of role models.
As the statistics included in this report show, women account for
only a small percentage of technical positions. This means there are
fewer women for girls to emulate and look to for inspiration. Another
possible contributor to the low enrollment of women in tech is that many
young girls lack the facts when it comes to computer science. From the
interviews we conducted for this project, some women voiced frustration
that no one told them that their mathematical prowess or to a greater
extent, their general interests, were very much in line with that of a
computer scientist. While they went on to study an unrelated subject in
college and eventually chose a career path that led them to the tech
industry, it could be inferred that they wish they were involved with
technology at a much younger age. As Katherine Barr, a successful
Silicon Valley VC who fits this profile told us: " I was at the top of my class
in math and science through high school and I really didn't know what
the different options were -- and it just seemed like getting a B.A. was
the path that made the most sense at that time."
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13. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Despite these many sobering statistics, new studies are
suggesting that we are on the brink of a sea-change when it comes to
the use of technology by females. A study published by the Pew Internet
& American Life Project found that among web users ages 12 to 17,
significantly more girls than boys blog (35 percent compared with 20
percent, respectively)8. But perhaps even more encouraging is that girls
eclipse boys when it comes to building or working on Web sites for other
people and creating profiles on social networking sites (70 percent of
girls aged 15 to 17 versus 57 percent of boys)9. This shows that young
girls are doing more than just casually surfing the web. They are
creating, designing, and interacting with technology in a new way, and at
a higher rate than their male counterparts to boot. We will drill down
deeper into the implications of this 'newer engagement' in Chapter 6.
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14. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Chapter 2: The Women of Silicon
Valley in Context
1. Challenges & Choices
In evaluating the academic and popular literature on the topic of women
in tech, it is impossible not to encounter the frames of work/life balance
and career path obstacles collected under the 'glass ceiling/glass cliff'
meme. Our approach to these well-worn tropes was to acknowledge
their enduring relevancy in the workplace today but also examine the
very individual ways successful women in the Silicon Valley have
addressed these issues head-on. Their portraits provide an important
counterpoint to stereotypical frameworks like the "glass ceiling". By
focusing on these women and highlighting their personal histories and
professional accomplishments, a more nuanced view emerges of what a
"woman in tech" really means. We can thus better understand, through
different career trajectories, the success or failure of women in tech. In
this chapter we examine the careers of very powerful women at three of
the largest tech giants in Silicon Valley, indeed the world: Yahoo!, Cisco,
CAROL BARTZ – The New YAHOO CEO
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15. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
From 3M to 3F
Two weeks after Yahoo hired Carol Bartz as its CEO, the embattled
company recorded a net loss of $303.4 million compared with net
income of $205.7 a year earlier. Bartz inherited a company clearly in
need of a complete overhaul, a major reorganization, and new strategic
plans. While one way to view the scenario is that of the "glass cliff", it is
difficult to imagine Bartz worrying about falling off the cliff.
Bartz, 60-years-old, grew up living on a farm in Wisconsin and was
raised by her grandmother when her mother died. She was the
homecoming queen in high school. She worked her way through college
as a cocktail waitress and received an honors degree in Computer
Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1971.1 Today she is married
with 3 children and still manages to find time to golf and garden.
Her first job after college was at 3M, one of America’s blue-chip
companies at the time. When Bartz requested to be transferred to 3M
headquarters in the 1970s she was told that “Women don’t do these
jobs.”2 From 3M, she went on to work for Digital Equipment Corporation
and Sun Microsystems. Her move to the computer industry eventually
brought her to Autodesk. She worked at Sun Microsystems for nine
years before starting her stint at Autodesk.
While at Autodesk, she actively promoted a culture that ran counter to a
fear of failure so prevalent in many established organizations. And even
more poignant for women The slogan for it was 3Fs, which stands for
Fail-Forward-Fast. With risk-taking as a crucial dimension of innovation,
the 3Fs was meant to establish a culture of tolerance within Autodesk
that viewed failure as not only acceptable but also desirable, as long as
the experience yielded lessons and therefore results.
Her tenure as the CEO of Autodesk from 1992-2006 was widely
regarded as a successful one. Sentiments like this one documented by
Forbes were common, "Since 1992, Bartz, 56, has transformed
Autodesk from an aimless maker of PC software into a leader of
computer-aided design software, targeting architects and builders."
Bartz was able to increase Autodesk's annual revenue from $285 million
to $2.2 billion. Autodesk's stock price rose by an annual average of
almost 20%. She accomplished this even though she was diagnosed
with breast cancer soon after taking on the role of CEO at Autodesk.
After surgery, she came back to work full-time in a month and continued
to have chemotherapy for several months after that. She conquered
cancer and presided over Autodesks "astonishing growth."3
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16. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Her steely determination will definitely be an advantage as she steers
Yahoo through this turning point in the company's history which some
have described as "huge" and "floundering"4. A commanding presence,
Bartz's first few months at Yahoo have been a whirlwind of activities and
meetings. As Kara Swisher, a journalist who covers Yahoo, wrote "Bartz
has let loose with a lot of questions. 'She is asking the right ones,
although the tone is much more tough than employees are used to,' said
one Yahoo exec."5 She will no doubt leave an impact on Yahoo, judging
by the nickname admiring employees have given her – "Hurricane
The challenges in Bartz's life have, in a way, catapulted her career.
Indeed, Yahoo's board could not ignore that "Bartz has been tested in life
as few people in Silicon Valley have. Her trials have turned her into a
hardened, disciplined, occasionally ruthless, but often inspiring boss—
exactly the sort of leader, it could be argued, that Yahoo! now
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Padmasree Warrior – CTO at CISCO SYSTEMS
From Fortune Magazine to the Economic Times to Working Woman
Magazine, Padmasree Warrior has garnered much recognition for her
work at Motorola and now at Cisco Systems. In 2004 she was honored
with the National Medal of Technology by President George W. Bush.8 In
2009, the 47-year-old Warrior was also under consideration for the
President Obama's new administration post of CTO for the country.
Warrior received her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the
Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and her master's degree, also in
chemical engineering, from Cornell University. Warrior's first job involved
wafer process development in one Motorola's semiconductor factories
in Arizona. In an interview, she acknowledged how challenging it was in
I was hired as a recent graduate to develop a new reactive ion etch process for dielectrics. At that time,
my project had to be done in a large manufacturing fab due to short lead times to meet the market
window. It was a tremendous challenge because it was my first exposure to the industry, I was the new
kid on the block (the only female engineer in the entire factory) and I was under the gun to get the
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process ramped into manufacturing. I learned a lot on my first job both technically and socially, having
to overcome gender and culture barriers. I formed many deep friendships which continue to this day. I
would say my first job was the toughest but also the most rewarding.9
Warrior spent 23 years at Motorola progressing from many positions and
culminating with her appointment as CTO in 2003 and Executive Vice
President in 2005.10 While in these positions at Motorola, Warrior
oversaw a research and development budget of $3.7 billion and a staff of
25,000 engineers worldwide.11
Long commutes in Silicon Valley are fairly common, making life a difficult
balancing act, especially for working mothers who also want to devote a
significant amount of time for both their personal and professional lives.
Warrior's commute is a long one, even by Silicon Valley standards.12 She
commutes on a weekly basis to Silicon Valley from her home in Chicago,
where her former employer, Motorola is headquartered. However, the
sacrifice of being away from her husband and son might be offset by the
huge opportunity Cisco represents.
While many companies are floundering, Cisco seems poised to weather
the current economic downturn with nearly $30 billion in the bank.
Warrior was attracted to Cisco's entreprenurial and open-minded culture
where it has integrated many of its past acquisitions. Though Warrior's
role as CTO at Cisco is defined broadly, her focus is very customer-
I spend a lot of my time with customers understanding what their future needs are going to be, where
they see the future heading, sharing with them our view of the future, how things are going to transition
and then translating that back into what our strategy should be. The other thing I do is taking the
message of Cisco's innovation and our strategy to various stakeholders beyond customers — like
industry analysts, financial analysts and the media. The second area of focus is to really drive
technology-driven market transitions, and Cisco's strategies around that, such as cloud computing.13
In her role as Chief Technology Officer for Cisco Systems, Padmasree
Warrior is responsible for not only technological strategy and innovation,
but also Cisco's new business models. Outside of work her
responsibilities also encompass being a role model and giving back to
the community. She has received many accolades as a role model of a
successful woman in the technology field and has translated this
recognition to her commitments to many organizations including
Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, the National Science Foundation, and Chicago's
Museum of Science and Industry.14
In an interview, Warrior was asked "What lessons have you learned that
would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?"
Be an expert in your field, know your stuff! Develop a clear, concise and distinctive communication style.
Surround yourself with giants - don't be intimidated by brilliance from others, leverage it. Lead with
femininity and grace - you don't have to be "one of the boys" to be recognized as a strong leader. Be
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19. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
professional and always treat people with respect. Be well organized in how you deliver and be thorough
in what you do. Take charge of your career. Don't wait for the perfect opportunity to land in your lap--
search for it with passion and daring. A lesson I learned from Bob Galvin is "Leadership is the ability to
take people elsewhere. Lead with humility. Humility does not mean that one thinks less of oneself, it
means that one thinks of oneself less". This is a nugget I will always carry with me.15
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20. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Marissa Mayer – Vice-President at Google
Mayer May I?
Famously known as the first female engineer at Google and Google
Employee #20, Marissa Mayer, the 34-year-old, Vice-President of Search
Products and User Experience, oversees the product development
process. Mayer received her B.S. in Symbolic Systems and her M.S. in
Computer Science at Stanford University, specializing in Artificial
Intelligence. Many patents have been filed under her name for work in
artificial intelligence and interface design. Before joining Google, Mayer
also worked the UBS research lab (Ubilab) in Zurich, Switzerland and at
SRI International in Menlo Park, California.
In addition to her full-time work at Google, Mayer has also managed to
squeeze in teaching gigs at Stanford. Over the years, she has over
3,000 students in her introductory computer programming classes and
was recognized her educational contributions with the Stanford
Centennial Teaching Award and the Forsythe Award.
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In her tenure at Google, Mayer has introduced over 100 products and
features, including Google News, Image Search, and GMail. In all these
achievements, both her engineering chops and design sensibility are in
clear view. Indeed, it was both her ability to code and understand the
importance of design that allowed her to deliver effective and compelling
user interfaces, which in turn made her standout from the rest of the
engineers during the early days of Google. Her own formative memories
stem from a home in Wausau, Wisconsin decorated with Scandinavian
Marimekko prints, known for their deliberate use of bright color on white
backgrounds. A recent New York Times profile of Mayer noted that her
current San Francisco penthouse is a modernized version of her
childhood home.16 The authors also did not fail to notice it's striking
similarity elsewhere: "Google’s home page — spartan white
embroidered with splashes of blue, red, yellow and green — mirrors her
Wausau home and her penthouse."
In Mayer's case, "the glass ceiling" is one of her own making. As the
gatekeeper of all things design and user interface-related, Mayer
protects the spartan look of Google. And clearly her personal tastes
have an influence.
“It used to be people would come over to my apartment and say, ‘Does your apartment look like Google
or does Google look like your apartment? . . .I can’t articulate it anymore. I really love color. I’m not
very knick-knacky or cluttery. My place has very clean, simple lines. There are some elements of fun and
whimsy. That has always appealed to me.”17
Though at first glance, Mayer's input could easily be dismissed as
frivolous, it is pivotal and deeply engineering, quantitative and test-
driven.18 Little at Google, from design decisions around colors to text,
reaches the general public without her approval. In March 2009,
complaint's about the iron grip of Mayer's engineering, data-driven
background have come to light in a more public arena, dubbing it a
"glass ceiling."19 One visual design lead who left Google recently
complained of the meticulous testing under Mayer's watch:
Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades
between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should
be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case.20
In her own personal life, Mayer is equally obsessive. One of her
nicknames is Cupcake Princess. In her drive to make the best cupcake,
she culled through numerous cookbooks, created a spreadsheet of
ingredients, tested each recipe, and then made her own version.
Apparently, she did the same for the frosting.21 Her other obsessions
include entertaining, baking, fashion, and art. Always one to maximize
efficiency Mayers remarked “My hobbies actually make me better at
work. They help me come up with new and innovative ways of looking at
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As this report has documented, the underrepresentation of women in the
STEM fields both in education and in professional careers are well-
known. The dearth of women in technology & science must also be
understood within the context of the glass ceiling phenomenon.
According to Wikipedia, the first use of the term "glass ceiling" is often
cited as March 24, 1986 in a Wall Street Journal article by Carol
Hymowitz and Timothy Shcellhardt examining the career evolution of
women and the invisible barriers that impede their advancement in the
American workforce. In fact, there were two earlier uses of the term: in
a March 1984 article in Adweek by Gay Briant and at Hewlett-Packard in
1979 by Katherine Lawrence and Marianne Schreiber "to describe how
while on the surface there seemed to be a clear path of promotion, but,
in actuality, women seemed to hit a point where they seemed unable to
Years later, Carly Fiorina became first woman to be CEO of a Fortune 50
company. Upon taking the realms of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina declared
that "the glass ceiling doesn't exist." In hindsight, after her very public
battle with the board, Fiorina admitted in her memoir Tough Choices that it
was a "dumb thing to say".
In the workplace today, three generations of women are converging. No
longer is it enough to accommodate Women (with a capital W) to
address the needs for this particular segment of the workforce.
Companies need to understand the complex culture in which they
operate. Managing a diverse workforce now also includes addressing
women at different lifestages. As the previous profiles have shown, the
issue of having children at college, children at home, or having no
children impacts how women work. And increasingly their personal lives
have become intertwined with work especially with the advent of social
media. That said, as the personal impacts the professional, and vice
versa, women (including those profiled earlier), find ways to further
careers and maintain their personal lives as well. As in the case of
Mayer, who believes that her personal hobbies actually make her more
effective at work.
While we have presented profiles of highly successful women in Silicon
Valley, research shows that in order to increase the numbers of women
working in STEM-related fields, the issues they face at the mid-point of
their careers must be resolved. Recent studies have shown that women
are most vulnerable to work-family issues at the mid-level of the career
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curve. "For many women, building a career, partnering, and raising a
family are not simultaneous life events."23 The mid-level stage of women
who work in the technology sector also coincides with the time when the
greatest proportion of them would be considering having children.
Highlighting the gendered realities of work, a 2008 report from Stanford
University and The Anita Borg Institute found that, amongst mid-level
technical workers, women delayed having children at the rate almost
double that of their male counterparts and have foregone having children
at an even higher rate of almost triple that of men.24
These decisions are not surprising given the household characteristics
working women have to contend with. Partnered mid-level women are
over twice as likely as partnered mid-level men to have a spouse who
works full-time (79.3% versus 37.9%). Mid-level men, by contrast, are
more likely than women to have a partner who either works part time or
who is not employed. 25 These statistics convey the pressures women
feel regarding societal and work expectations.
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According to Bartz, these pressures often manifest themselves in the
form of useless guilt. In fact, she has said on numerous occasions that
work/life balance is "myth" and is counterproductive. In an interview with
More magazine, Bartz said condemned the "myth of the balanced life . . .
Women put all this crap on themselves," she says. "They think, 'I'm going
to cook a great breakfast, wash up the dishes before I leave, take the
kids to school, call my college roommate on my way in to work, be a
CEO all day, volunteer on the way home, do a little exercising, cook a
wonderful dinner, help with homework, have sex.'" Bartz pauses, grins
widely and shakes her hair. "I don't think so."26 Believing that daily
balance is an impossible thing to achieve, she advocates a more long-
term view and proposes that women focus on doing one thing at a time
and doing it well, instead of trying to juggle too many things at once.
While commuting between her home in Dallas and Sun Microsystems
headquarters in California when her daughter, Layne, was an infant,
Bartz spent four days at work fully-focused on her career and three days
a week devoted herself to her family.27 .
During her time at Autodesk, Bartz tried to build a more supportive
culture for busy people in general and created a more family-friendly
atmosphere, including shutting the company down for one week every
winter. To this day, Bartz's legacy is evident. Autodesk is regarded as a
good place to work with flexible schedules and telecommuting options
The constraints that women in tech feel, be it butting up against the
glass ceiling or delicately balancing work and family, are challenges that
women might feel disproportionately. However, the creative solutions,
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25. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
such as job sharing or flex time, that women and companies like
Autodesk have developed benefit everyone in the company. By
addressing the needs of its workforce, companies make their employer
brand that much more appealing to a broad spectrum of potential
employees and not just women. And this goes a long way in addressing
the problem of monoculture that often stymies innovation. Meeting the
needs of women inevitably promotes diversity in the workforce which in
turn leads to a more viable and sustainable enterprise.28
Yet the need for change cuts both ways, not just to the employer. In one
of the more troubling findings of the Orange Labs research, we found
signs that the monoculture of male engineering – both technical and
financial – had to some extent been internalized. As author and business
reporter Sarah Lacy explains it: " I think women much more feel like
they're a fraud and undercount their own abilities than men do."10 As
Kaliya Hamlin notes in our video: "Women believe they are performing
here (low), and they are actually performing here (high). "
A Forbes magazine article noted "If you want to create a really useful
invention, make sure you have both women and men on your
development team."29 Based on a study conducted by the National
Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), the magazine
explained that gender diversity was of great consequence to the
success of companies if one criteria used was "measured by the number
of subsequent patents that cite a patent."30 When compared with single-
gendered teams, mixed-gendered teams received up to 42% more
The NCWIT study attributes this difference to "functional-diversity" which
has to do with the approach people have to problems. This approach is
largely governed by life experiences. The higher the diversity within a
team, the higher and richer the functional diveristy . "Less diverse teams
use similar problem-solving methods, missing solutions that diverse
teams discover."32 That said, while the numbers of women's names on
information technology patents have been increasing over the years, as
the chart below indicates, they still remain a small minority on the
number of patents filed.
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26. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Companies can make a significant impact in increasing the number of
women filing patents. In addition to developing more gender-balanced
teams, NCWIT recommends educating employees about the benefits of
diversity and demystifying the patent process. They also suggest
incorporating innovation information and patenting education into
mentoring programs. 33 Today, companies are beginning to realize that
the case for gender diversity can also be extended from the engineering
floor to the boardroom and that the effects of diversity could also be
beneficial to the decision-making process at the management level.
Padmasree Warrior's company Cisco, which only has 16% of its
employees as women, has established an aggressive initiative called the
Executive Talent Insertion Program to add a dozen senior women
executives to its management within an 18-month period.34
As companies strive to close the gender gap amongst its employee
ranks, women of three generations -- the Boomers, GenX, and GenY --
will inevitably cross paths, sharing and leveraging their experiences in
the workplace, on the factory floor, in the boardroom, at networking
events and across new social media platforms built by a succeeding
generation of younger women.
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Chapter 3: The New Network
Silicon Valley is famous for its endless and always-on networking activity,
yet the the male-female ratio remains incredibly low. As an area famous
for its "think different" mentality, it is not really surprising that more than a
few individuals have decided to change this alarming ratio.
Networking events specifically targeting women have recently become
more popular. The goal of these events is clear: women are
being encouraged to break the stereotype of the geek with thick
glasses and a pocket protector. In Silicon Valley as well as
elsewhere, several organizations are trying to promote women in
technology, encourage them to join the world of
entrepreneurship and provide a support network to build the
confidence needed to maintain a long tech career. This chapter
discusses offline and online networking activities and events,
much of them occurring within the past 36 months.
Girls in Tech aims to bring more women into the tech industry
through women-only networking, roundtables, conferences, Adriana Gascoigne, founder
of Girls in Tech
entrepreneurial workshops, and recruiting events. By providing
comfortable venues for exchange and engagement, Girls in Tech hopes
to generate ideas about successful career practices and business
concepts related to technology.
"When women get together we can connect on a deeper level than if
men are around," says Adriana Gascoigne, founder of Girls in Tech. "It
helps to build confidence and it helps to create stronger relationships." A
lot of women in tech tend to try to blend in, they dress in a similar
manner to the men, and they behave in a similar way but this is a
mistake she says.
“It is important to embrace femininity, to embrace girliness,” says
Adriana. “Too many women think they need to be more like men to
succeed. You don’t.”
She's Geeky is an (un)-conference also targeting the female tech
market. With 5 instances since the 1st event in
October 2007, She's geeky gathers the diverse
range of women who identify as "geeky" with the
opportunity to spend time together and learn
from one another.
"When we called the first conference in the
summer of 2007, there was a lot of conversation
about the role of women in the industry and the
Wall Agenda at the She's geeky conference in
Mountain View - January 09
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28. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
lack of acknowledgment and paths for advancement, particularly outside
the formal corporate sector in Web 2.0 and Open Source. We wanted to
create a safe (women only) space to talk about the issues, strategize
around cultural change and, if needed, find personal support," noted
organizer Kaliya Hamlin.
She's Geeky is built on the "un-conference" format: open to everybody
and without a formal agenda but rather a wall agenda with ad hoc
sessions. Participants become the speaker, moderator or facilitator of a
session by posting a description of the topic they want to address.
Sessions titled "Getting more women involved in the Mozilla and Open
Source community", "How to ask for help without sounding desperate" or
"Women: Leadership, Role Models, Mentors" took place at the She's
geeky conference in the Bay Area in January 09
She's Geeky take a more general
approach and celebrates any
woman interested in technology:
developer, designer, user
experience expert or architect.
Other initiatives take a more specific
Judging panel ready to hear the pitches from the five finalists of the
Women 2.0 co- founded by 2
2008 Women 2.0 Business Plan Competition on Stanford Campus
Shaherose Charania in April 2006 is
committed to increasing the number of women entrepreneurs by
providing the resources, network, and knowledge for the launch and
growth of their company.
They put together networking events and conferences throughout the
year like Jumpstart your startup workshop series helping women
bringing their business idea to reality. They are trying to be a catalyst for
change, mobilizing a global community of ambitious women
entrepreneurs seeking to advance the world through technology.
The third-annual Women 2.0 Pitch 2009: Startup Competition was open to
applications from early-stage ventures around the world, subject to the
two conditions that: 1) companies must be in
beta-stage and have not received significant
funding and 2) Teams must have at least ONE
FEMALE in the founding team.
The attempts to bring more women in technology are not completely
new. Anita Borg was part of a relatively small group of
female computer scientists at the Ph.D. level in 1981.
She is one of the first women to create a network of
support for women in technology: Systers online
community in 1987, well before the concept of an
online community was a part of the mainstream. In
1994, she also co-founded the Grace Hopper
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Celebration of Women in Computing, inspired by the legacy of Navy Rear
Admiral Grace Murray Hopper previously mentioned.
In 1997 she founded the Institute for Women and
Technology which encompassed her earlier
endeavors and began new programs, partnerships,
and initiatives to include women in all aspects of
The Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is still alive
today and keeps inspiring thousands of girls to bring
the research and career interests of women in
computing to the forefront. The GHC Conference is
the world’s largest gathering of technical women in
computing. Over the last decade and eight GHC
Conferences more than 7400 women have attended
and nearly 1300 scholarships have been awarded to
students. Presented with Association on Computing
Machinery (ACM) the GHC Conferences offer
opportunities for mentoring, motivation, networking, Flyer of the upcoming 2009 Grace Hopper
technical and career development11. Celebration
Business Is Coverage of the Online Glass
Conference is an
annual conference on best practices for Ceiling Just Reinforcing It?
reaching women online in the media world. It
basically tries to help female bloggers get
The next BlogHer '09 conference will take place in Chicago July 23rd,
Topics announced in the agenda include "Identity and Passions", "the
Business of You", "Politics and Activism", "MommyBlogging" and "Geek
Lab – the Tech Track."
"One of the number one reasons we all attend BlogHer every year, whether coming for the first time or as
an old-timer, is to meet our online community "in real life". So after five years we think it's a great time
to celebrate the fact that our blogging, whether personal, professional or political, has brought us real
work, real friends, real satisfaction and is most definitely a significant part of our real life!" says
one of the organizers.
Lesson #1: Avoid Extra Pink
Media coverage of the BlogHer conference has not always been
positive, garnering negative remarks even from women reporters. After
The 2009 Grace Hopper Celebration will be held September 30 -
October 3 in Tucson, Arizona.
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30. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
the BlogHer 08 last July critical pieces like this were published: "But in the
tortured circular hell of who's to blame for gendered imparity, it's only fair to point out that the Netroots
[political event held the same day] convention probably didn't have the "You are perfect" notes hanging
on the stalls. It's crap like this that gives the extra-pink tint to the already gendered lens through which
the media sees conferences like BlogHer," wrote Rebecca Traister in Salon.com. In
addition, the New York Times coverage (by a woman) of the event was
highly criticized by female bloggers because of its focus on specific
details like the bathroom setup, the lactation room, child care. It also
triggered articles like "Is Coverage of the Online Glass Ceiling Just
Reinforcing It?" in the FishBowlNY blog
Some women are very attached to the idea of a meritocracy, and reject
the issue of gender as an important factor in their success. They think
that focusing on the female gender of the entrepreneur is not only
distracting but sometimes actually counterproductive.
"The people who fuel that "conversation" are nothing but well-intentioned, I'm sure. But far more often
than not, their good intentions get turned around, twisted, and come out all wrong. I think most mean to
ask themselves deep questions such as, "Why is our industry dysfunctional?," "Why does my life kinda
suck?" but end up, with something smaller, something that few would challenge: Where are all the
women?" says Amy Hoy in the "Women and Technology" section of the
This fear of the "extra pink tint" is to be kept in mind while organizing
events aiming at supporting women. Fortunately, recent initiatives
managed to avoid the pink trap like the Lovelace Day. Because of the
many publishing platforms now available and wide distribution,
leveraging social media tools could be one of the best way to inform
about women achievements, increase awareness about existing stories,
trigger passions and foster entrepreneurship among the female market.
Recent studies show that 55% of users on Facebook
are women. They tend to be more active in gathering
and posting pictures, keeping in touch with
acquaintances and classmates, sharing their daily life
with friends and family. As mentioned by Clara Shih,
author of The Facebook Era, the "effort" to keep in
touch with friend has been minimized by social
networks like Facebook, making it easy to "keep in
touch" with as many people as possible. "Such behavior has
a high potential of serendipity. Your classmate in 10th grade could become an
HR executive at a company you may apply to. You never know what will happen," asserted Clara
Shih in an interview with Orange Labs San Francisco
Lesson #2: Leverage Social Media
The most recent initiative that took advantage of these strong ties to
promote and celebrate as many women in tech as possible is the Ada
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31. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Lovelace Day: an international day of blogging to raise the profile of
women working in technology. 1980 people signed a pledge and agreed
to write a blog post or otherwise talk about a woman in technology that
they admire on Tuesday 24 March 2009. Suw Charman-Anderson,
organizer of the day managed to create a giant buzz using the currently
most popular social media tools available: Facebook and Twitter.
There are currently some 1197 Chat with Suw Charman-Anderson, the Creator of Ada
posts listed in the mash-up, Lovelace Day
although that list is not Why did you create the Lovelace Day?
complete as many people did I thought that such an initiative was needed because I realized that many
not add their post. Even Tim people, including myself, had problems naming female role models.
I saw some research that showed women in female role models more than
O'Reilly spread the word by
men need male role models, and felt that it was a relatively easy thing to do, to
writing a piece titled "It's create new role models. All we need to is talk about the women we admire and
always Ada Lovelace Day at learn about the women excelling in technology.
O'Reilly" on his blog.
What has been the reaction so far?
More Ada Lovelace Day posts Incredibly positive. The day itself was a great success with lots of buzz on
can currently be found here, Twitter, and blog URLs flooding in through Facebook, Twitter and the pledge
comments. It was covered by many major news sites here, including The
here and here. Guardian, The Telegraph and even the freesheet, Metro.
Computer Weekly also did a section on it, and the British Science Museum
supported the day too. Finally, I did interviews on BBC Radio Five and the
BBC News Channel (tv news).
What benefit do you expect from such a buzz around women in tech?
At the very least, we have raised the profile of many heroines of computing
and technology, not just Ada herself, and not just historical figures. I hope that,
with all this mainstream media coverage, that we have made a dent in the
misconception that anyone interested in technology must be a teenaged boy
with bad skin.
Hopefully more women realise that not only is it possible for them to progress
in their careers, but also that there are many other women, just like them, who
are working in this very male-dominated industry and being successful at it.
Do you think Corporate Companies could have an impact on the current
They could have a huge impact, particularly around the issue of maternity
leave, career breaks and remote working. Technology changes rapidly, and
women who have taken even just a few months off to have a family can easily
lose confidence because they feel that they are no longer up to date. The
problem is even worse for women who've taken a few years out, and who feel
totally at sea because the landscape has shifted beneath their feet.
Businesses could help to re-skill women and ease them back into the
workplace, and whilst I'm sure some do, I'm also sure that not enough
companies think about how they can support women with training through the
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32. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Ada Lovelace Day page in Facebook
Mentoring, be it one-on-one or in the networked mode of Silicon Valley,
is still one of the most powerful ways to compel young girls and women
to consider careers in technology. Female role models are needed in
the tech industry, it makes it easier for girls to identify themselves to
women, understand their success and day to day life. What has changed
are the tools and means for inspiring girls. "Doing postings on Facebook, Twitter
about it or video on YouTube that is accessible to everybody. That s the best thing you can do with social
media to create role models and have access to information" concludes Shaherose in her
interview with OLSF.
Lesson #3: Thick Skin needed
As Shaherose Charania points out in her interview with OLSF, they
are not many successful innovative and successful women in the
Tech media: "Growing up my role models were Steve Jobs and Bill
Gates, there were not any women I could identify myself with."
When Gina Bianchini did the cover page of FastCompany after the
launch of Ning.com, wearing simple jeans and a white tank top, she
received very critical responses from the mostly male tech
audience. "She got destroyed on the blogosphere," remembers
Sarah Lacy "it is almost like it made men nervous to see a beautiful
woman make it. You need to have a very thick skin to handle being
criticized everyday," Lacy notes.
Gina Bianchini on the
cover of Fast Company
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Chapter 4: What About The Media?
In this section of the report, we turn our observations on the observers,
and ask the following questions about the media that covers Silicon
Valley and tech culture more generally:
- Is there a bias within Science and Tech reporting among the trade
and general press to quote and report on men?
- Are there certain major themes in the trade and business press
that highlight the achievements of men, or understate or
stereotype women? Conversely, when women in tech are
featured, are there stereotypical themes?
- How are male enclaves within the Silicon valley culture
perpetuating stereotypes of innovation through interlocking
relationships, that in turn generate role models valorized by media
which continue to ignore the contributions by women?
These are just a few of the questions that should be, and rarely are,
asked about media representations of women who work in tech. Within
our ongoing coverage of the literature and our initial quantitative content
analysis probes, there are clear preliminary findings for all of the above.
Bias in Media Science Reporting
The literature on media bias is of course voluminous, the specific topic of
media bias in reporting on women in technology is less so. Recent
studies from the UK12 have: focused on how newspapers represent male
and female scientists, as well as how press officers associated with
science organizations mediate representatives of their organizations to
the press along gender lines13. With respect to the working press on
both sides of the fence (reporters and press relations, PR), we can
anticipate the same phenomenon American researchers (Kolb and
McGinn) observed, namely that "gender practices seem unbiased in
isolation, but they reflect masculine values and the life situations of men
who have dominated in the public domain of work."14 As we will see in
other quarters of the hi-tech milieu, such as Venture Capital, this
dynamic holds true as well15.
Kitzenger, et al; Cardiff School of Journalism
Boyce and Kitzenger, Cardiff School of Journalism.
Kolb and McGinn, Harvard Business School, 2008.
Indeed, we find multiple examples of the phenomenon of (mostly men)
responding to suggestions of bias by accusing the suggestor of 'sexism',
see for example reactions to a post by Wall Street Journal reporter Kara
Swisher about Facebook's all-male board
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34. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
For example, Kitzenger et al performed a content analysis of 1,503 articles
about science topics – 84% of experts cited in these articles were men.
For the area of particular interest for the Orange Labs researchers,
which was computers, the number are much worse – 93% of the quotes were
from men, the worst out of five science-related categories.
Tech Themes and Stereotyping
In our own research into media bias within tech and business press, we
focused on trade publications for the ICT industry, focusing on US
publications16. Several types of stories were considered:
- 'Top' Lists This is a favorite genre among business press, for this
context we were interested in issues focusing on "Top CIO's" and
such related topics such as top VCs.
- CIO Coverage As we will discuss below, there is a strong
symbiotic relationship betweemn the business press, tech
vendors, and cultivating the image and position of the CIO (Chief
Information Officer) – by elevating the status of tech procurement
within the enterprise press generates increased advertising
revenue by delivering this audience to vendors. How the CIO
position is reported on is relevant when considering bias effects.
- Covers An obvious place to look for bias in reportage is on the
cover of the magazine itself.
With respect to the Top Lists question, we looked at to different lists,
both from CIO magazine17 which caters specifically to this executive
audience and vendors trying to sell to them, as well as a larger list of
500 CIOs from Informationweek18 . In both cases, the magazines' results were
identical – 15% of both lists were women's names, 85% of both 'Top' lists were
We would argue this is a 'best-case' result – that any editorial staff (and
sales execs looking over their shoulder) would be conscious of the fact
that diversity is always desirable in such an exercise, and so we treat as
reasonable the conjecture that an attempt was made to be inclusive.
of-facebook-management/. (scroll down to comments fields)
Specifically: ComputerWeek, InformationWeek, CIO magazine
Top CIOs, May 17, 2007
Top 500 CIOs, InformationWeek, September 15, 2008
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35. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
That is not the case with the monthly or weekly deadline and everyday
stream of events however. So we looked at two indices to see how
stereotyping occurs outside of the curated list context. The first was
cover art, we looked at a sampling of magazine covers that specifically
featured a partial or full-length portrait of a human on the issue cover
(photograph or line art was accepted). Out of a total sample of 24 issues
featuring humans, 88% of covers featured male CIOs or other tech leaders.
The second indice we used was a high-level content analysis focused on
topic/gender stereotyping. In general, when men were featured on the
covers of issues, the stories they were illustrating tended to be about
management of technology or people, or more advanced technology
evolution. In the instances when a woman was featured (1 out of 3 times
in the case of InformationWeek) the topic being illustrated was a stereotype
reinforcement, such as a story about diversity, or managing vendors.
Indeed, when we turn to venture capital – an essential cog in the Silicon
Valley innovation machine – the gender stereotyping of reportage is very
visible as well. If one Googles the search string "women in venture
capital" the US portal will return around 3,000 citations. A similar
stereotyped string for 'men in venture capital' returns under 1019.
The most egregious example was a "Tomorrow's CIO" issue which
featured a roundup of opinion by CIO's about the future challenges for
their peers: a total of 14 CIO's were quoted in the article, out of 14 quotes, 1
was from a woman (7%).
Are there female CIO's? Of course there are. Are they as numerous as
men? Of course not. As the related research cited in the opening
chapter on women representation in the executive suite showed, the
'cult of the CIO' at best can open up it's ranks to women for about 15% of
its membership. The press lags behind the reality, relegating its scanty
coverage of female executives to 'women's issues' or just simply
ignoring them when it comes time to ask about "challenges".
The Cult of the Venture Capitalist: Doerr's Syndrome
In the current downturn, the luster of venture capital even here in Silicon
Valley has faded – the once-predictable exit of enriching investors via an
IPO20 has disappeared along with the emperor's clothes – as of this
writing there has not been a single IPO in the past two quarters. That
said, the monoculture of Venture Capital both nationally and in the Valley
is breathtaking. According to a 2008 study from the National Venture
Capital Association, an examination of the general partners of its
As of June, 2009.
Initial Public offering
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member firms reveals the fact that 88% of the general partners are white, 86% are
Not surprisingly, given this monoculture, the downstream effects are
predictable – even though at times they have been wildly successful. As
one of the most famous VC's in Silicon Valley, John Doerr, remarked
about his business model, "we look for nerds that have dropped out of
Harvard or Stanford."
As a result, what we can call Doerr's Syndrome has led to a monoculture
within startup ecosystems: according to VentureOne, the VC community
of white males has entrusted only 3% of VC money with women-led companies.
According to the same 2006 analysis, only 4% of VC-backed companies
have women as CEOs.
In what we could call the White Male Coefficient, this same number of
4% applies to the percentage of women represented on Forbes
magazine's "Midas List" of 100 most successful VCs for 2007.
A balanced view of this situation must take into account the 'pipeline'
problem – women at the helm of startups seeking funding are hard to
find, therefore seeing them get funded is going to be difficult as well. As
Sara Lacy notes in our video: " Because that's what a lot of VCs say if
you ask them why they don't fund more women entrepreneurs, they say
'we don't see them…less of them come in an pitch us.'" Indeed, a
notable exception that proves the rule is Tim Draper, the legendary VC
and co-founder of Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson, who is famous for
performing a strip tease based on the number of women-entrepreneur-
led companies his firm has funded21.
The number is six.
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Chapter 5: Three Generations of Women and the Net
Despite the persistent under-representation of women in STEM fields
(Science, Technology,Engineering, & Mathematics), one can find three
generations of women converging in the workplace today: Baby
Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. Baby Boomers represent Americans who
were born between 1946 – 1964. Marked by the birth boom after World
War II, most of the boomers grew up during the counterculture of the
1960s. Close to 80 million strong, Baby Boomers constitute the largest
segment of the American population. Gen X, relative to the Baby
Boomers, is a much smaller but highly educated group. Gen X were
born to Baby Boomers during 1965- 1976. They also represent a very
diverse group in which Hispanics, African American, Asians and other
minorities constitute 38% of this particular demographic.35 Gen Y were
born between 1977 – 1995 and include a particular cohort often referred
to as Millenials who were born between 1980 – 1995. Gen Z are the
youngest generation and include those born after 1995 and include many
of the teenagers today.
In understanding the contribution of the three generations of women in
Silicon Valley, we suggest contextualizing these contributions with
respect to the Internet as a useful and productive lens. First, we look at
the broad spectrum of use by each generation. Here find that basically,
the Boomers that invented the basic technical bricks behind today's
Internet focus on core utilities such as email. The GenX women of Silicon
Valley who co-created the World Wide Web and connected it to the
world we all live, work, shop and recreate in, use Internet e-commerce
and entertainment applications. The GenY women of Silicon Valley can
be seen everywhere on the new forms of social media, which they use to
amplify their voice and collectively build a new layer of public and
transparent emotion on the top of preceding generations' contribution.
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According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, email represents
the most popular online activity, particularly amongst older internet
users. On the other end of the spectrum, social networks, blogging,
instant messaging, and now microblogging, in the form of services like
Twitter, are gaining popularity as the default form of communication for
many young people. While younger people dominate the web, with Gen
Y and Gen X constituting more than half of the internet population, Baby
Boomers are increasingly online and making their presence felt.
However, there still exist notable areas of internet use that distinguish
Baby Boomers look at the internet from a utilitarian point of view and not
so much as an instrument for socializing or a medium for entertainment.
They approach it more as a tool for emailing, making purchases or
information searches. Not surprisingly, they use the internet to search
for health information with greater frequency than younger generations
like Gen Y& Z.
Pew notes that online shopping is the main focus of Gen X, with 80% of
them buying products via the internet. Younger people (teens), Younger
Boomers, and Older Boomers practice much less online shopping, 38%,
56%, and 47% respectively. Gen X also leads in online banking (67%),
with Gen Y not too far behind at 57%.
In contrast to Baby Boomers, Gen Y and Gen Z flock to the internet for
its social and entertainment value. With a plethora of entertainment
options, teenagers and young adults find myriad ways to amuse
themselves via online games, virtual worlds, and online videos and
music. Internet users between 12-32 years-old read blogs, write their
own blogs, and use social networking sites far more than older
generations as the chart below indicates.37
While striking differences can still be found amongst the generations of
internet users, one pattern is clearly emerging. More and more people
are participating in social media. In a recent report, Forrester Research
revealed a significant increase in the use of Social Technologies with
75% of internet adult users actively using them, compared to 56% a year
earlier.38 For the most part, this incredible growth has been fueled by
the participation of women of all ages.
Amongst Social Media services, Facebook in particular has been
growing exponentially. In August 2008, Facebook crossed the 100
million users mark. By January 2009, it reached 150 million. And more
recently, expanding at the rate of "nearly half a million users per day,
every day, since late August" Facebook announced it passed the 200
million user mark in April 2009.39
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As of February 2009, women are the majority in every age group
category on Facebook. And the segment of Women over 55 are
growing at the fastest rate, up 175% during the period Sept08-Feb09.40
Overall, the Facebook audience is comprised of 56% women.41 The
trend of women dominating social network applications has been well-
documented. Perhaps the most high-profile service in the Social Media
space at the moment is Twitter, a short-messaging system that allows
users to broadcast messages less than 140 characters, "tweets," via
their mobile phone or computer. Most Twitter users are female and
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Indeed, in a recent analysis conducted by Rapleaf of all major social
networks in use today, the female-to-male ratio among users younger
than 25 was at least 1.5:1 and for major networks Facebook and Bebo
The implications of a 'pink' future for a socially-inflected Web are at the
heart of the study's findings. We proceed from here by contextualizing
the evolution of the Internet via the lens of women's contributions.
3G(enerations) of Women and the Internet
The convergence of three generations of women in the workplace in the
technology field today must be contextualized within the evolution of the
Worldwide Web itself. While we have earlier in this chapter discussed
demographic differences in the use of the internet by generation, we can
also examine how changes in the technological environment affected
particular generations of women who work in the technology sector.
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Likewise, we can see how the contributions of of each generation of
women in the Valley shaped the evolution of the Web.
A clear parallel exists in the trajectory of the web and the women who
work in the technology field. In it's early stages, the internet was about
information and the retrieval of data. This, era of the Informational Web,
witnessed the emergence of companies like Yahoo that focused on
search in its early form. The paradigmatic representation of women in
Silicon Valley who contributed to this phase is that of the Maker.
The second stage of the internet, the Relational Web, was characterized
by its focus on people. Early versions of social networks like Friendster,
Match.com, & MySpace are representative of the drive to connect with
others. The corresponding paradigm for women executives and founders
in this stage of the Web (which encompasses the Dot.com bubble) is
that of the Connector.
Today, in its third stage, the Emotional Web is marked by a highly
expressive state, where emotions, statuses, opinions, and experiences
are amplified via their distribution and augmentation by social media
tools. The paradigm for women and girls in tech here is that of the
Generation of Makers
Boomers like Sandra Lerner, Judy Estrin and Padmasree Warrior could
be characterized as "Makers." Here we find women who used their
engineering degrees to invent the basic building blocks that would lead
to today's Web.
Sandra Lerner was the co-founder, along with her then-boyfriend Len
Bosack of the world's most well-known tech company, Cisco. After
graduating from Stanford University with a Computer Science degree in
1981, Lerner went to work for the university as Director of Computer
Services for the Business School. There, she and Bosack, along with
students and future Sun founder Andy Bechtolstein, and William Yeager,
the man who wrote the code for what is now the Cisco NOS (Network
Operating System) built a 'blue box' that became the first network router.
Lerner and Bosack founded a company and named it Cisco in 1984, and
1985 found them hand-assembling routers in their living room in
Atherton. A key decision made by the couple was to focus on the then-
emergent TCP/IP protocol, removing other protocols from the original
Stanford blue blox. That decision would allow them to retire just three
years later. The rest of the company's history would be about mass-
production of the IP appliance that would become the infrastructure for
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The networking appliance and the new concept of the router became the
basis for a hotly-contest market of networking startups, each addressing
part of the ever-widening networking puzzle. Another networking startup,
Bridge Communications, was founded by a computer hardware
engineer, Judy Estrin, who came to the technology after a stint working
at Zilog, one of the first computer chip manufacturers. Bridge was one of
a number of firms consolidated in a wave of acqusitions, in this case by
3Com Corporation, the brainchild of Robert Metcalfe, widely credited as
one of the inventors of the Ethernet protocol, now the lifeblood of IP-
based networks. Estrin would go on to serve as CEO of 3Com, making
her one of many examples of women engineers moving into CEO
Today, Silicon Valley-trained women of the Boomer era manage some of
the world's largest and complex technical organizations. Ann Livermore
at HP Solutions, runs a $41 billion services organization for the company
that epitomizes Silicon Valley. Janet Perna, who started at IBM's San
Jose R&D Lab in 1981, now runs IBM Software's Database business, with
400,000 customers and 60 million users. Interestingly, both women
have spent their entire professional career with their current employers.
Generation of Connectors
With women playing a fundamental role in the creationof the basic
network for the Internet, it is fitting that the next generation (GenX) of
women would be major players in connecting people with things,
products, and each other over that network. The basis for the
Connector generation of women in tech was in the introduction of the
HTTP/HTML protocol developed by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau
at CERN, which created the hypertext model of linking pages. The
creation of the Mosaic browser made information rendered in this way
The result was a burst of creative and economic activity, most of it
venture-funded, that would lead to the Dot Com Bubble. The mantra of
this boom-and-bust phenomenon was "network effects" – essentially the
idea that traditional industries such as book-selling and travel would be
dot-commed by online stores that would attract millions of buyers
shopping from their armchair. In the 'free' model that accompanied this
paradigm, advertisers would move to the Web to present messages to
the millions of "eyeballs" there. This led to the other mantra of "scale
fast" and "first-mover advantage". Excesses of the era followed from this
"get-big fast" mentality, including interestingly, Boo.com, an online
fashion venture that famously burned through $188 million in just 6
Today, the most visible example may be Carol Bartz at Yahoo, who
started as an engineer.
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But out of this excess came some enduring lessons and models. One
was the idea that a compelling online user experience could create
economic value. This focus on user experience would empower women
who understood how to connect with users over the Web. Another
enduring truth was that audiences (the 'eyeballs' of the Bubble) were
also a source of online economic value creation. Furthermore, the
collective activity of these audiences could be tapped to determine
things like relevance – an insight put to enormous effect by Google
founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page23.
GenXers like Marissa Mayer, armed with a Computer Science degree
from Stanford, and Gina Bianchini, with an MBA from Stanford University,
were among the Connectors who leveraged these lessons. Mayer was
the first female engineer and one of the first 20 employees at Google;
Bianchini is the CEO of Ning, a platform for social networks.
Along with other GenX Connectors, such as Caterina Fake, the co-
founder of Flickr, these creative engineers understood that communities
and audiences acted like networks – the lessons of the network effect
were there for the taking, even if the wild swings of an overheated stock
GenXers as Connectors keenly understand the utility of social media and
social networks to the consumers they deliver products to. Indeed,
Mayer, as Vice-President of Search Products and User Experience,
oversees the design and user interface for Orkut, Google's social
network site and Bianchini, as CEO of Ning, enables hundreds of
thousands of individuals to create their own social networks.
Today: An Amplified Generation
For GenYers, like Leah Culver who has a degree in computer science,
their early careers are being shaped indelibly by the Emotional Web.
Women GenY who work in the technology sector make things, like the
Makers of the Boomer generation, and are steeped in social
technologies, like the Connectors of GenX. Yet this particular GenY's
trajectory starts with the amplified effects of the augmenting quality of
the Emotional Web.
The concept of sharing content over the Web is a function of social
media, with the appearance of MySpace and its instant appeal to girls
being a major wake-up call that out of the wreckage of the Bubble, the
next major evolution of the Web was underway. The gift of creatives like
Caterina Fake was the understanding of content as a "social object" that
could be exhibited, put on display, and shared as a gesture of friendship
But, we hasten to add, largely managed by a woman, Sheryl Sandberg,
now the COO of Facebook.
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This paradigm brings design into center stage, and related tech media
that depend on design, such as videogames benefit from this new focus
on user experience. In the videogame marketplace, for example, women
designers such as Jane McGonigal and Amy Jo Kim are in high demand
for their insight into how to deliver engagement – the lifeblood of
videogame companies. In a market thought (incorrectly) to be catering
to acned teenage boys, key positions are held by women such as Lucy
Bradshaw at Electronic Arts,
Today, creative engineers such as Culver at Pownce, or Mena Trott, the
co-founder of the massively popular blogging platform SixApart, are
pushing the envelope of what social networks can do to amplify each
member's status, contributions, and emotions. In this they are helped by
a fast-growing wave of users on the Emotional Web, the strong majority
of which are female.
Tomorrow: From Content to Code
The surge in women participating in content creation in the social media
space is interesting not just for its cultural implications but also for what
it means from a professional perspective, especially when considering
young girls and women. The importance of social media to future
technology careers for young women might very well provide more utility
than traditional educational channels. Statistics from the Pew Internet &
American Life project also support the idea that young girls use of social
media just maybe the salvation from the maddening dearth of women in
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Engagement
in social media itself might very well be generative not just of crucial
mentoring and support but also of the critical coding and programming
skills young girls need to have in technical careers.
Statistics show that communication in all its aspects are the domain of
girls, from in-person communication to cell phone use to instant
messaging. Girls also outpace boys in journal writing 49% to 20%.42
Driven by a desire to communicate, girls think of social media as simply
new tools for broadcasting and publishing.
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In the Social Media space, "girls dominate the teen blogosphere and
social networks—66% of girls have an SNS profile compared with 50% of
boys, and 34% of girls (versus 20% of boys) keep an online journal or
blog."43 And the domination of girls in social media is represented across
all ages in the youth segments.
The Pew study found that:
Older teen girls are still far more likely to blog when compared with older
boys (38% vs. 18%), but younger girl bloggers have grown at such a fast
clip that they are now outpacing even the older boys (32% of girls ages
12-14 blog vs. 18% of boys ages 15-17).
Highly skilled in the art of weaving stories and fostering social
connections, teenage girls have embraced the internet and transferred
these skills to social media at a time when the technology itself is going
through radical changes, allowing content to be treated
programmatically, shared as objects, and providing endless opportunity
for self-expression . In this peer-based learning model, the exciting
convergence of the social web with open source development has
enabled an entire generation – GenY – of girls helping girls to make the
leap from content-creation to coding.
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A notable example of this is The Alice Project (Alice.org), founded by the
late Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Professor, Randy Pausch. Alice
is an open-source, educational, object-oriented programming
environment that teaches young kids how to create animations and tell
stories. Alice.org is collaborating with Silicon Valley companies like Sun
Microsystems and Electronic Arts to deliver highly tailored educational
software about programming to different age groups. For example,
Storytelling Alice, was created to specifically focus on middle school
children, and girls in particular, to motivate them to learn computer
programming by creating short 3D animation movies. Focused on the
crafting of stories, Storytelling Alice includes:
1.High-level animations that enable users to program social interactions
2.A story-based tutorial that introduces users to programming through
building a story.
3.A gallery of 3D characters and scenery with custom animations
designed to spark story ideas.44
Alice 2.0 shares the same goals and characteristics as Storytelling Alice
but its 3D programming environment is age-appropriate for high school
and college age youth. It also has a similar focus on girls.
As girls increasingly utilize software like Alice and new open-source
social media tools to express themselves, connect with friends, seek
support, and discover content, will coding and programming become
second nature to them? Judging by the narratives collected by Orange
in Silicon Valley from leading women technologists, it seems truly
inevitable that today's wave of networked girls will shift tomorrow's
technology paradigms with their storytelling.
The Emotional Web
While the open and social characteristics of the evolving internet are
creating pathways for girls and young women to gain more skills in
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programming, generate visibility as content creators, and obtain access
to peers, role models, and mentors, it's the internet's evolution, focused
on "the moment" and capturing fleeting feelings, that might very well
solidify the impact of women in emergent technologies as they become
more expressive of current states of emotion.
Look at any number of social media tools today and you will see that
almost all of them solicit some sort of expressive input from the user.
From Twitter asking "What are you doing?" to Facebook's "What's on
your mind?." Similarly, video recommendation engines attempt to tap
into people's moods to deliver video content suggestions. For example,
Clerkdogs' call to action is "Start with a movie you love." Likewise, the
New York Times created an interactive feature for its readers asking
them "How do you feel about the economy?"
In a world where technology enables anything, anywhere, anytime, and
anyway, then appropriateness will rule the day. So it is not surprising
that we are now at a moment in technological history where emotions
are constantly measured, broadcasted, and even estimated. Companies
are continually on a quest to push technology to its limits and suggest
movies that might meet our very mood at that exact moment, deliver ads
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that we would love in one particular context, or even present images that
might resonate with us at that time, however fleeting.
The shift from the Relational Web to the Emotional Web finds its most
poignant instantiations in the applications built on top of social media
themselves. Take the Facebook app HappyFactor. It aims to give "you
the tools to learn what uniquely makes you happy. By keeping track of
what you do and how happy you feel, you can have more happiness
more often."45 Twistori aggregates feelings expressed on Twitter and
"presents a stream of consciousness view of the Twitter emotional
And WeFeelFine has developed a database of millions of feelings which
are increasing at the rate of 20,000 new feelings each day. Using a
highly creative interface, the data is represented in a very visual playful
way through a series of what they call Movements divided into six
categories: Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds.
Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog
entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it
finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and
identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy,
depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways,
the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be
extracted and saved along.
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emotionally-rich content favors girls and women who tend to cultivate
social networks, develop emotional connections online, and create and
decorate profile pages more than men and boys. Furthermore, the
anecdotal and storytelling quality of the internet today also makes it a
more girl-friendly domain. Storytelling is contingent on emotional hooks
that draw the reader in. And as young girls become proficient in
programming interfaces like Alice.org that promote storytelling through
the use of emerging technologies, we can begin to rethink conventional
strategies for increasing the participation of women in the development
of technology. It is imperative to contextualize formal STEM education
today as something that exists alongside the innovations brought about
by the Worldwide Web's progression over 3 stages in the last decade.
Education, alongside social initiatives that involve mentorship and
networking opportunities, can now be combined with social media
technologies that foster peer-to-peer learning.
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The team entered into the study with the sense of an impending
emergency. We arrived at a conclusion that we are on the cusp of a
That emergency was the story told by:
- Numbers regarding female enrollment in engineering studies at
the university level
- Representation of women at the board-room level within SV
- Share of venture capital being awarded to women entrepreneurs,
and the number of women awarding it
- Share of voice by women in the traditional trade and business
press as it relates to technology
Two of these trendlines are heading in the right direction, up. The
academic picture continues to be problematic. As for share of voice
within traditional media, not to be unkind, but it is increasingly irrelevant.
That is due to the story being told by other numbers that we and other
researchers should both pay attention to, and be encouraged by.
This emerging opportunity is the story told by:
- A growing body of historical knowledge, as delivered via the
common repository of the Web, about how much in fact women in
tech have contributed to the creation of value and technology that
makes our lives better. The 'secret history' is now increasingly in
- The dominant voice of girls, young women, and increasingly their
antecedent cohorts, across the Emotional Web. This is
documented in a growing corpus showing female mastery of
social networks for programmatic storytelling.
- Accelerating use of social networks of all kinds by a new
generation of GenY social media-savvy women entrepreneurs of
all types – technical, social, financial – to connect with each other
across generations and leverage the newly-formed convergence
of all three generations here in Silicon Valley over the recent past.
The fact that our research was conducted in the context of a deepening
crisis lent a certain clarity to the conversation – the lack of background
noise and the hype buzz that is the daily soundtrack of Silicon Valley
allowed us to listen better to the voices of Makers, Connectors, and
Amplifiers (the latter we heard quite well). The Makers of the '80s --
fabricators of the networking quilt that would become the Internet –
grew up amidst the global social and cultural crisis of the '60s. It is
interesting to note that the growing influence of their GenX Connector
successors such as Marissa Mayer, Caterina Fake, Gina Bianchini et al
was tempered by the experiences of the dot com crisis of the early
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zeroes. In retrospect, much of the creative destruction of that boom/bust
cycle has led to nothing less than the social networks of the Emotional
Web that provide such a powerful platform for GenY Amplifiers. Today, a
truly global crisis emboldens the GenY Amplifiers who increasingly see
technology as a means to mobilize humanity for social change, climate
change, and a more equitable planet.
Specific findings and recommendations follow, with each Finding pointing
to one or more Recommendations.
Finding #1: Social Media
- Social media is a comfortable place for women, it affords visibility,
mutual support, and reinforces self-esteem. A global phenomenon in
attracting the next generation of women to tech is the growing usage of
social media by young women.
Associated Recommendations: R1 (see Recommendations section below)
Finding #2: Education/Information
- Women are grossly under-represented in the important field of Open
Source software development today. Focusing on choices women make
at the college level is at best a band-aid solution, too little too late. There
appears to be a false dichotomy between CS and business Young
women need support to stay interested in science starting with primary
Associated Recommendations: R1, R2, R3
Finding #3: Impact & Future
- Three generations of women are converging at the same time signaling
a more gender and generationally-diverse workforce.
- Diversity equals superior performance. This is corroborated by
additional evidence from NCWIT that mixed-gender patent teams
received significantly higher citations, a key metric for innovation. The
Tech industry also appears to be below average in terms of women
representation on corporate boards.
- The emergence of GenY as a major segment in the workforce means a
greater willingness to change careers and explore new paths. With the
growing demand for tech employees through 2016, this augurs well for
new opportunities for GenY in engineering and tech.
Associated Recommendations: R4, R5
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Finding #4: Career & Support
- The literature examining women's participation in tech has been largely
characterized by policy, cultural, behaviorial, and economic
considerations, such as work-life balance. Ironically, the prism of
technology has been largely absent from the critical studies. What role
does technology itself play in the trajectory of tech women's careers in
- Work-life issues have to be reframed, looking beyond the short-term
unrealistic ideal of juggling towards a longer-term view of a sustained
- Role models and mentors are needed early on to keep girls from being
tracked out of the harder sciences, specifically computer sciences;
personal experiences culled from our interviews show these are highly
influential in determining career trajectories in tech.
- Silicon Valley's penchant for networking extends to this domain – a
growing number of local networking events aimed specifically at women
as entrepreneurs and developers have developed over the past few
years, joining a few long-standing women's networking groups. Opinions
are divided. Is this is a service or a disservice?, The dissenting view
argues that, by "branding it pink", women are actually given exclusionary
- Venture Capital is seen as one of the major growth engines for Silicon
Valley innovations. While the numbers seems to suggest women are
under-represented in the VC firms, as well as under-funded, the team
was able to identify a strong emergent network of women in VC in the
Associated Recommendations: R5, R6, R7
- R1 Educators across all levels must explore the growing connectivity between story-telling
and programming, whether it is at the GenY level (example Alice.org) or
even GenZ, where it can be argued that the massively popular Webkinz
is bringing the next generation of girls in tech into playful focus. Social
media is also about programmatic story-telling.
- R2 Create viral messages that expose girls to role models, accomplishments,
and possibilities in the tech field. Utilie social media to send a strong
message or call to action for inspiring girls to engage in tech.
© 2009 Orange Labs SF - 55
55. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
- R3 Promote practices such as Job-Shadowing, where students can follow a
computer scientist/engineer around to see first hand, as Marissa Mayer
says, "what will my work do?" This may help address the issue of
refocusing girls on tech.
- R4 Corporate sustainability officers need to broaden their view of sustainability to understand
that every investment in programs that expose girls to tech, whether
they are coding camps or fellowships, is a crucial part of any corporate
strategy that focuses on their long-term survival. Monocultures are bad,
diversity is good.
- R5 Properly evaluate exactly where your organization stands with respect to women's
contribution to innovation. This starts not with the question "how do we
fix this?", but with a clear look around at the contributions women are
already making. In other words, before you look for the problem, look
objectively at your current situation.
- R6 HR needs to revisit the work-life balance. Programs for maternity leave, work-
at-home, flextime are good, but not enough. What is missing is a holistic
view of women across all the stages of her contributions. Mid-career
choices and expanded options for spouses are necessary elements of a
more comprehensive approach to work-life balance.
- R7 Innovative models for mentoring must be developed. While many of the women we
interviewed attested to the importance of role models and informal
mentors on their career choices, we also encountered significant
amounts of skepticism about formal, or imposed, mentor relationships.
Can more organic forms of mentoring be fostered?
Social-MediaLook internally & externally to find creative ways to supportunder sponsor events,
R8 Women are grossly and -
camps, workshop, and conferences represented insoftware development theFocusing on choices women make at the
Social media is a comfortable place for women, it affords visibi lity, that encourage
the important field of
mutual support, and reinforces self -esteem
participation of women in tech. Provide space, send employees, a band -aid solution, too
A global phenomenon in attracting the next generation of women t o
today. There appears to be a college level is at best
false dichotomy between little too late.
organize panels, feed participants, donateCS and business
tech is the growing usage of social media by young women equipment, and help
Young women need support to stay interested in
publicize events to raise awareness and increase action. with primary schoole .
How to leverage?
help? Promote practices such as Job -
Create viral messages that expose girls to role
Concept Map: Findings & Recommendations Shadowing , where students can
models, accomplishments, and possibilities in the tech Explore the growing connection between story -telling and follow a computer scientist/engineer
field. programming , whether it is at the GenY level (example Alice.org ) around to see first hand, as Marissa
or even GenZ , Mayer says, "what will my work do?"
Look internally & externally to find creative ways to support
events , camps, workshop, and conferences that encourage
the participation of women in tech.
Innovative models for mentoring must be
developed . Can more organic forms of Before you look for the problem, look objectively at your
mentoring be fostered? current situation
HR needs to revisit
How to manage? the work -life balance.
Mid-career choices and
create a comprehensive Corporate sustainability officers need to broaden their
The literature examining women's participation in tech has
approach to work -life view of sustainability to programs that expose girls to
been largely characterized by policy, cultural, behaviorial , tech, because the company will benefit.
and economic considerations, such as work -life balance. balance.
Monocultures are bad, diversity is good.
Work -life issues have to be
Career & Support reframed, look towards a longer -
term view of a sustained career
Role models and mentors are needed How to anticipate?
early on to keep girls from being tracked Venture Capital is the major growth engine for
out of the harder sciences. Silicon Valley. We find a strong emergent network
of women in VC in the Valley.
Silicon Valley's penchant for networking extends to this domain Ð a growing Three generations of women are converging
number of local networking events aimed specifically at women as entrepreneurs at the same time, signaling a more gender
and developers have developed over the past few years. Support t hem and generationally -diverse workforce.
Impact & Future
Diversity equals superior performance. The Tech industry also ap pears to
be below average in terms of women representation on corporate b oards.
The emergence of GenY as a major segment in the workforce
means a greater willingness to change careers and explore new
© 2009 Orange Labs SF - 56
56. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
© 2009 Orange Labs SF - 57
57. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Postscript: Walk the Talk
OLSF-sponsored Ruby On Rails Outreach Workshop
June 13, 2009
If You Stretch, You Reach
Frustration was the catalyst. At the Golden Gate Ruby Conference back
in April 2009, Sarah Allen and Sarah Mei, both female developers, were
bothered and alarmed by the under-representation of women at the
event (only 6 women out 285 developers!?). Deciding it was time for a
change, the two women quickly focused on stretching the objectives of
the conference by reaching out to more women. They envisioned a
workshop dedicated to educating women on Ruby on Rails
The Back Story
They shared this vision with Bosco So, the Ruby on Rails Meet-Up
organizer, and also Orange Labs employee. Bosco So thought it was a
great event idea. He immediately mentioned it to the receptive ear of
Mark Plakias, VP and Project Lead of the Women In Tech research
project at Orange Labs San Francisco. Mark Plakias clearly saw the
value of such an event and enthusiastically offered to support Sarah
Allen and Sarah Mei's project.
Support is Everything
The event was
Highlighting that it
was free and that
going to be
available, it was no
wonder that within
© 2009 Orange Labs SF - 58
58. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
a short span of.one week, the event was "sold out" with a long waiting
In just two short months after Sarah Allen and Sarah Mei first came up
with their vision, 85 people (mostly women, %) gathered at Orange Labs
San Francisco on Saturday, June 13, 2009 to attend the workshop.
Different programming levels were separated out into 9 groups, spread
out around the lab's meeting rooms. Each group teaching Ruby On Rails
at its own pace, and in true Silicon Valley style, peer-to-peer.
© 2009 Orange Labs SF - 59
59. Her Code: Engendering Change in Silicon Valley
Additional Notes & Acknowledgements
© 2009 Orange Labs SF - 60
61. Additional resources
Ada Lovelace Day:
HREF="http://findingada.com/2009/01/05/ada-lovelace-day/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor
HREF="http://www.pledgebank.com/AdaLovelaceDay" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor
HREF="http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=47550446005" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor
Main Silicon Valley Communities
HREF="http://women2.org/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Women2.0: Angie Chang and
Shaherose Charania co-founded this great organization that aims to increase the
number of young women entrepreneurs by encouraging women to work with and in the
field of technology.
HREF="http://girlsintech.net/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Girls in Tech connects like-minded, motivated
young women to swap energy, ideas, and experiences with each other.
HREF="http://www.blogher.com/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor BlogHer: In 2005 Elisa Camahort,
Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone responded to the often repeated question: "where all
the women bloghers?" Blogher was their answer, the largest online community of
women bloghers to date.
HREF="http://www.womenwhotech.com/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Women Who Tech
HREF="http://www.scu.edu/business/gwln/%20" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Global Women's Leadership
Network: dedicated to developing the leadership capacity of women who dare to transform the future of their
organizations, communities, and the world.
HREF="http://forums.oreilly.com/category/44/Women-in-Technology/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor OReillly
Forum on Women in Tech††††††††† HREF="http://forums.oreilly.com/category/44/Women-in-Technology/"
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor http://www.oreillynet.com/womenintech/HREF="http://www.mobileactive.org/"
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor MobileActive.org: MobileActive is a global network of people
(and their tools, projects, and resources) focused on the use of mobile phones in civil
society spearheaded by Women Who Tech advisory committee member Katrin Verclas.
HREF="http://shesgeeky.org/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor http://shesgeeky.org/ event in NYC early Dec
2008, event here in BA end of Jan 2009
HREF="http://www.astia.org/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,779/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor
ASTIA (formerly Women's Technology Cluster) - a community of experts committed to building women leaders
and accelerating the funding and growth of high-potential, high-growth, women-led startups. ASTIA was
founded by Cate Muher, former CMO of Cisco, as part of her foundation HREF="http://www.3gf.org/"
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor The Three Guineas Fund founded in 1994 in San Francisco to promote social
equity by expanding access to economic opportunity for women and girls.
Myra Strober - Stanford - HREF="http://www.stanford.edu/%7Emyras/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor http://
Stanford University's HREF="http://www.stanford.edu/group/gender/index.html" MACROBUTTON
HtmlResAnchor Clayman Institute for Gender Research and the
HREF="http://www.anitaborg.org/news/research" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Anita Borg Institute for
Women & Technology just published
" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Climbing The Technical Ladder. Here is the
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor news release sent out in October 2008. The Borg Institute has HREF="http://
anitaborg.org/initiatives/women-of-vision/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor a Women of Vision Banquet in San
Jose in April 2009. Lots of other resources at both of these institutes.
HREF="http://www.geekgirlblogs.com/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Geek Girl Blogs: A great
blogging community for women working in IT.
HREF="http://www.linuxchix.org/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Linuxchix: Great network of women
working in Linux.
HREF="http://www.webchick.net/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor WebChick.net: Angela Byron's blog
about working in open source.
HtmlResAnchor ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange: A blog that highlights women in open source.
HREF="http://anitaborg.org/initiatives/systers" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Systers:HREF="http://anitaborg
.org/initiatives/systers" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchorOne of the world’s largest email communities of
technical women in computing.
HREF="http://www.womeninconsulting.org/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Women in Consulting
HREF="http://www.techbridgegirls.org/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Techbridge is aimed at middle-school
girls where the break occurs
men_thrive_2193?gp=1" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor McKinsey Study: How Talented Women
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Women + Personal Branding
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor The Glass Cliff: Are Women Leaders Set Up to Fail?
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor NYT Article Increasing Women on Payrolls
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor NYT Article on Women + Diversity
%20belkin&st=cse&oref=slogin" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor NYT Diversity + Athena Factor Review
HtmlResAnchor Gender Diversity at Web Conferences: By HREF="http://kottke.org/" MACROBUTTON
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Cracking the Boys Club: 10 Pioneers in Tech and Web 2.0: By Allyson Kapin
HtmlResAnchor Most Influential Women in Web 2.0: By Saabira Chaudhuri
HREF="http://www.oreillynet.com/womenintech/" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Women in Technology:
Hear Us Roar Series: By Tatiana Apandi
technology-visible.html" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Women Who Risk: Making Women in Technology
Visible: By Tara Hunt
HREF="http://anitaborg.org/files/womenhightechworld.pdf" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor The State of
Women and Technology Fields Around the World:† By the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology
HREF="http://anitaborg.org/files/businesscasegenderdiversity.pdf" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor The
Business Case for Gender Diversity in TechnologyHREF="http://anitaborg.org/files/businesscasegenderdive
rsity.pdf" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor : By the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Good Top 50 Women in Tech List - 2008
HREF="http://www.jlabsllc.com/interviews-articles?page=1" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Judy Estrin's
Resources Page, Great Stuff
HREF="http://online-advertising.com.francetelecom.fr/spip.php?article539" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor IT
in European Schools, from Orange U&I
HREF="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7707485.stm" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor BBC ValleyGirls
Profiles several profiles here.
63. US National WScience Foundation HREF="http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/sex.htm#graddeg"
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Demographic data on Degrees Granted, by Gender (thru 2005)
HREF="http://www.bi.no/Content/Article____70035.aspx" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Androgynous
Leaders + Innovation
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Androgynous Leaders Article
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor UC Davis Study on Women Business Leaders in California
telecommunications/#more-1013" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Women in Telecom
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor MIT 1973 Report Women In Science + Technology
HtmlResAnchor Innovative Potential: Men and Women In Teams (includes research from Orange)
MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor Fortune Editor on Powerful Women