This week, the internet sphere has seen journalists and industry professionals alike tweeting, blogging and commenting on the appointment of Marissa Mayer as Yahoo!'s new CEO. It seems to me that the subject taking over the technology headlines is not that Yahoo! has hired a new CEO, but more the fact that she is a woman succeeding in an extremely male dominated field. Mayer is now one of three female leaders in Silicon Valley joining Meg Whitman (CEO, Hewlett-Packard) and Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook).
As written by Steve Rosenbaum (CEO, Magnify.net) earlier this year on The Huffington Post, Mayer claims she never saw herself as a minority amongst her peers whilst studying Computer Science at Stanford University, but as a 'good student' as opposed to being 'good for a girl'. It wasn't until she read an article in the college newspaper, The Stanford Daily that she came to realise that "[she] was somewhat unusual". Mayer never saw gender as an important factor in her success, which she attributes partly to excelling on her own terms. This is somewhat humbling as she was Google's first female engineer when she joined as their 20th employee in 1999.
In today's UK IT editorial space, this information would be highlighted almost immediately as we see just 14% of IT roles populated by women despite the success of numerous women in the technological landscape, like Mayer. The sudden influx of editorial surrounding the lack of women in IT (in the UK and worldwide) has taken centre stage of the gender imbalance debate as to whether it is a hindrance on the sector. Research released by Computer Weekly has shown that men in the industry acknowledge a more creative and innovative environment with clearer communications due to having women in their teams. So, why don't we have more female representation? This is a question with unlimited possibilities.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending and judging Computer Weekly's inaugural Top 25 Most Influential Women in UK IT Awards, which saw 25 women commended, celebrated and applauded for their influence in IT throughout various sectors including government, education and banking amongst many others. With nine insightful and inspirational talks, I can conclude that there is no one right answer. We discussed multiple possibilities to keep women in the industry in addition to encouraging more women to pursue a career in IT. On top, came the importance of networking and female role models in the industry, and Mayer is one of many.
The fact is, networking is absolutely key to creating a supportive network within any industry, whether male dominated or not. With women holding such an acute minority in this sector, it is great to see the blogosphere sitting up and taking note of the successes of women within IT and the appointment of Mayer at Yahoo! has positively contributed to the mass of articles online championing women in IT.
Moreover, role models and subsequently mentoring are essential to help women with their professional growth in addition to encouraging more women to consider IT as a career path. With Mayer hitting the technological headlines, she is highlighting the vital roles women all over the world are playing in technological development. Despite Mayer not instantly recognising the lack of female peers on her Computer Sciences course, there are many women out there who do, which consequently deters them from IT careers. It is for these reasons that I believe wholeheartedly in FDM's Women in IT campaign and Female Champions initiative.
Since launching the initiatives in October, we have seen a steady rise in female applicants and we are retaining the women we have. This is because we lead by example with the majority of our management team being female and we are passionate about supporting our workforce. As I mentioned, with the spotlight now on Mayer's new position and her inevitable success at Yahoo!, it is great to see more people writing about women in IT and showcasing to the world the talent of women and subsequent female role models within the sector.
With this in mind, I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Timothy Leary, American writer and psychologist, "Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."
Follow Sheila Flavell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SFlavellFDM