Women & Digital Society: A Reflection|
From a distance, it might appear that the number of role models for women in digital society is small. Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer are often the easy answers to the “where are the women in tech?” question because their names are attached to two of the most astronomical success stories in Silicon Valley of the past decade. These women’s accomplishments are numerous and are not to be discounted; their successes professionally have been matched by their investments into the female tech community. But what about the rest of women in digital society?
In terms of usage, women are highly active digital users and are often early adopters-in a different way than men, in that women tend to use digital platforms to aid the functionality of their daily lives. Sabrina Crow, SVP & Managing Director for Media Client Services at The Nielsen Company, said last year that they key to uptake of a new technology for women is that it seamlessly improves their day-to-day lives. Women are less likely to be carried away by technologies that lack functionality.
And on the creation side? Two or three women do not a society make-but of the highest ranking women involved professionally in digital society, nearly all are active mentors to other women. I spoke with Maria Bartiromo recently, who told me, “The CEO of HP is a woman. The COO of Twitter is a woman. The COO of Facebook is a woman. If you want women leadership, go to tech– that’s where they are.” The multiplier value of these women is high, and their influence encourages women to encourage one another-to show that there’s plenty of room at the top for any woman able to push the envelope and offer something new and useful to the digital world.
Where men have always been pushed into hard sciences and technology, women have not. Take engineering: women earn a mere 17-18% of the degrees granted in engineering-and engineering degrees make up only 5.4% of all bachelor’s degrees conferred in the United States. In other words, 1% of all bachelor’s degrees conferred are to women in engineering. The numbers are much less for computer science. The disparity implies that, by loose extension, women are active digital users but passive digital creators.
But thanks to the success of a few early adopters and extremely driven women, we are starting to push one another to learn the skills requisite of success in digital society. And we’re learning that oftentimes, women have a completely different way of approaching the creation and design of new technologies and interfaces.
From women working in Washington DC, like Paula Boyd, to academics like Susan Crawford, to digital frontierswomen like Susan Lyne , we see over and over that when women take the steps requisite to get off the ground in tech, they have significant and lasting impact. Communities that have sprung up around this growth, such as Women in Wireless, Women Innovate Mobile, The Levo League, Invent Your Future, and countless others-these are the beacons to ours and future generations looking at digital society that women are here to stay.
Elizabeth Burke is co-chair of Women in Wireless editorial content. She is the Managing Editor of The Levo League, a professional community and recruiting platform for women 1-10 years into their careers. She has a BA in Economics and Psychology from Columbia University. After two years in Media at McKinsey & Co., Elizabeth did a stint at New York Magazine as a manager in the research department before coming to The Levo League. A transplant from Washington State, Elizabeth lives in the heart of Manhattan. An avid reader, data-spelunker, and lifelong bluegrass singer, you can follow her musings @ezburke.