Women in IT: A seat at the table
10 female IT leaders who have pioneered a path to the C-suite
Women have made significant strides in the field of technology over the past twenty years, impacting areas including engineering, research and development, programming, and systems architecture. But perhaps the most visible mark women have made on the IT industry of late has been in founding and leading technology companies as senior executives. It's no longer surprising to see female executives in the C suite, and while some female leaders have found more success than others, all have worked to blaze a path for women at IT companies.
[ Want to become a high achieving female IT executive? Get moving and join the CIO Executive Council's workshop on May 10 in Boston ]
"Women's contribution to the technology industry has been very significant over the past twenty years as women have taken on more leadership roles," says Kelly Harman, president-elect for Women in Technology, a group that promotes the role of women in the technology industry (and also an executive herself, as vice president of marketing for technology company Carousel Industries and former president of Zephyr Strategy). "I think women have demonstrated they can take leadership roles and senior positions in leading companies and do a very good job."
Today more than ever the examples these women have set need to be highlighted; the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a decline in women employed in computing-related occupations from 2000 to 2009. For example, the number of female computer programmers has fallen from 26% of that profession to 20% during that time period, and female computer hardware engineers have gone from 22% in 2000 to 9% in 2009.
Current: Member, board of directors, Aetna and Colgate-Palmolive Company
Former: President of wafer foundry Jazz Technologies and president and CEO of its predecessor Acquicor Technology; chairman and CEO of Exodus Communications; executive vice president for research and development and CTO of Apple; executive vice president and COO of National Semiconductor; various executive positions at IBM.
Impact: Hancock climbed the ranks at Big Blue, holding various positions during her 29-year career there, most notably general manager of IBM's Networking Systems division and then Senior Vice President and Group Executive. Her short stints at Apple and National Semiconductor didn't snag her the CEO title; that came in 1998 at web-hosting company Exodus, where she was also chairman. Life at the top was short-lived, however, as Exodus felt the effects of the dot com bust and filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
Current: Chairman and CEO, Carly Fiorina Enterprises; chairman, Technology Policy Institute; independent director, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company
Former: California Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, chairman and CEO of HP, executive positions at AT&T and its spinoff Lucent.
Impact: Fiorina took the reins at HP in 1999 after successfully managing Lucent's spinoff from AT&T, and expectations for her performance were high. But the company's less-than-smooth acquisition of Compaq and the hard times that ensued, including layoffs, resulted in her resignation from HP in 2005. Fiorina was widely criticized for poor management of the company, albeit through difficult times. However, according to the think tank Technology Policy Institute where she is now chairman, Fiorina was the first and, to date, only woman to lead a Fortune 20 company.
Next page: Meg Whitman, Padmasree Warrior, Kim Polese
Current: Member of the board of directors at HP, Zipcar, Teach for America, and Proctor & Gamble
Former: Republican nominee for Governor of California; CEO, eBay; various executive positions at The Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks, Proctor & Gamble, Hasbro
Impact: When Whitman joined eBay in 1998 there were thirty employees; when she left in 2008 there were 15,000. She structured the company for growth, tweaking and growing the management ranks to accommodate the site's fast climb in popularity and eventually taking the company public. She was named one of the Top 5 Most Powerful Women by Fortune Magazine more than once.
Current: CTO, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise, commercial and small Business, Cisco
Former: CTO, Motorola
Impact: Warrior leads a team of 10,000 engineers at Cisco that focus on the networking vendor's core architecture development. When she took the role of CTO at Motorola in 2003, she marked the first time that a woman made it to the executive ranks at that company.
Current: Advisor, ClearStreet
Former: CEO, SpikeSource; co-founder and CEO of Marimba; product manager at Sun Microsystems
Impact: Polese made her mark on the technology industry early on in her career by convincing colleagues at Sun to change the name of its programming language from "Oak" to "Java." Polese went on to start Marimba and led the company through its IPO and acquisition by BMC Software for $239 million. She later became CEO of SpikeSource, an open source software tool maker, which last November was acquired by Black Duck Software for an undisclosed amount.
Current: CEO, Yahoo
Former: CEO and executive chairman of the board, AutoDesk; various positions at Digital Equipment Corp., Sun Microsystems, 3M
Impact: Bartz has been credited with growing AutoDesk into a leader in its field of software for architects and builders, while also significantly increasing the company's revenue. Since taking the helm at Yahoo in 2009, she has overseen significant layoffs at the struggling Internet venture. The jury is still out on her performance at Yahoo, but her legacy at AutoDesk is largely positive.
Current: member, board of directors, Intuit; member, MIT Corporation
Former: founder and CEO of VMware; CEO of VXtreme, various executive positions at Silicon Graphics, Sybase, and Tandem
Impact: Greene co-founded VMware with her husband and leading it to a very successful IPO, but was removed from the office of CEO by VMware's board of directors in 2008; speculation was that the board needed to take action to stop the company's stock from freefalling. Greene was offered another position at the company, which she declined. Since leaving VMware she has joined Intuit's board and is a member of the MIT Corporation, the university's governing body.
Current: Co-founder, Six Apart
Impact: Trott and her husband founded Six Apart in 2001, and were part of the early social networking/Web 2.0 movement. Trott is closely associated with the blogging movement thanks to her company's blogging software that helped bring the Web phenomenon mainstream.