Why Female Leadership in Tech Matters (and Works)

The tech industry has a severe underrepresentation of women, starting at its entry-level positions and getting worse as the ladder climbs up to roles in leadership. A 2013 study by Women and Information Technology found that just 26 percent of computing jobs were held by women.

At industry leaders like Google, women make up more than 30 percent of total employment, but only 17 percent of tech-related careers. Facebook's numbers are even lower and Twitter is laughable at 10 percent. But with female executives like Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo!, why are women in tech on the decline and not the other way around?

Hiring more women in one of America's most thriving industries isn't just the right thing to do, it actually makes companies better. A Gallup study found that female leaders are likely to be more empathetic and better listeners in top company positions. So why aren't more businesses helping themselves by hiring more women?

Companies Should Reflect Consumers

Consider this: Roughly half of all consumer electronics users are women. So why shouldn't the people in charge of making these products reflect the same demographics? A recent study by Deloitte shows that women's decisions in business can affect 85 percent of purchasing decisions, accounting for nearly $4.3 trillion of U.S. consumer spending. Women also download more movies and music than men, so, in some cases, they can actually make up a significantly larger slice of the pie.

Airbnb, the popular San Francisco home-sharing startup, is one of the most successful new companies in the country, and it employs a near 50/50 split of men and women. Progressive communications companies also do a good job of employing more women compared to the national average. For example, T-Mobile's employees are 43 percent women who earn similar salaries to their male colleagues on average, according to Deloitte. But even with the companies doing it right, the industry as a whole still has a long way to go.

The Up and Comers

Most people know about Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, but there are lots of prominent women making a name in tech and paving the way for future jobs in the industry. These are just a few names you'll be reading about in Wired, TechCrunch and Gizmodo.

  • Amy Baxter is a medical doctor and the founder of Buzzy, which is a small device that takes the pain away from injections by confusing the body's nerves around the area of the shot.
  • Sarah Wood is a British entrepreneur that makes branded videos go viral. Her company specializes in taking a business YouTube flick and turning it into a worldwide sensation.
  • Leah Busque coded the first version of TaskRabbit, which is an online marketplace for outsourcing errands and chores, two years before receiving $25 million in investments in 2011.

Why It All Matters

There are dozens, if not hundreds of women like the ones listed above, but the gender gap in tech is still wider than the Grand Canyon. It's up to American businesses to be proactive and hire more women for both entry-level and leadership positions. The problem isn't going to just solve itself.

Is closing the gap the right thing to do? Of course. But it also has been proven to make companies better. So if you go by nothing more than the bottom line, it's still plenty enough to motivate companies to move into the 21st century and embrace more gender diversity in the workplace.

Poppy Watt