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Jobs and Wozniak, Brin and Page, Bezos, Ellison – these early technology legends will go down in history as visionaries who helped changed the world. They are recognized for their drive and tenacity, but they share another notable characteristic: they are all male.
Fast-forward a few decades and the industry is starting to change. Women are increasingly playing a larger role in business – founding companies, holding C-level positions and leading engineering teams. Being “the only woman in the room” is a dying phenomenon.
Late last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the tech industry added 60,000 jobs, and more than half of those positions - 60 percent to be exact - went to women. Thanks to female leaders and educational institutions urging women to pursue careers in technology, engineering, math and science, there is no better time to be a woman in tech than today.
For the first time in UC Berkeley’s history, more women than men enrolled in an undergraduate introductory computer science course. Professor Dan Garcia’s CS10 course has 106 women enrolled and only 104 men.
Down the road in Palo Alto, Stanford University has increased female enrollment in its computer science program from 12.5 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2013 (now tied with the percentage of female computer science majors at Berkeley).
The shift will help embolden the younger generation, too: California-based GoldieBlox, led by founder and CEO Debbie Sterling, has been making waves with toys aimed at introducing young girls to engineering. The company recently won Intuit’s coveted “Small Business, Big Game” contest, beating out more than 15,000 other small businesses for the chance to air an ad during the Super Bowl.
Sterling, who is a Stanford-educated engineer herself, talked about the need for more female engineers in a 2013 TED talk, pointing out that even though women make up half the population, only 11 percent of engineers in the U.S. are female.
“With half of the population being female, we deserve to have the female perspective,” she said. “It will only get better with the female perspective.”
On the entrepreneurship side, the female perspective is in full swing.
Scores of women are leading thriving tech companies, paving the way for others. Alison Gelb Pincus, co-founder of One Kings Lane, an online marketplace for home and design sales, was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. Double Line Partners, a company delivering data systems to help improve K-12 student performance and founded by Zeynep Young, was named one of Forbes’ 2014 Most Promising Companies.
Tech LadyMafia co-founders Erie Meyer and Aminatou Sow were so tired of hearing about the lack of women in technology they founded their international listserv and membership group for women in tech to share best practices, brainstorm, and celebrate their achievements (Meyer is also a senior advisor to the White House’s Chief Technology Officer).