Leading from the front: top women in tech

The IT sector can take credit for including more than its share of the most powerful women in the world. Forbes has released its annual list of the “100 World’s Most Powerful Women,” and tech companies are home to no fewer than 18. Seven are ranked in the top 25.

A Forbes article zeroing in on the achievements of female leaders in the tech sector starts off, as one might have anticipated, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The first female director of Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), Sandberg comes in at number nine, her second top-ten placement in a row. And she’s a highly successful author too: her book Lean In, published last year, quickly climbed to the top of the bestseller lists. The book encourages women to pursue professional careers and develop their leadership potential.

At 44, Sandberg still has plenty of years left in her career. At the number 10 spot, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty has already has a long run in IT. Starting in 1981 as a systems engineer for Big Blue – when having a tech job at all was an achievement for a woman – Rometty is the first woman to lead the company. Forbes notes the acclaim she garnered for refusing to claim her annual bonus after IBM (Nasdaq: IBM) posted a five per cent drop in revenue last year.

Susan Wojcicki is in twelfth spot for 2014, a big jump from number 30 last year. The CEO of YouTube was formerly Google’s senior VP of Ads and Commerce, and has been in various spots on the top 100 list for several years. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, is number 18. Mayer has made a reputation as a buyout specialist, particularly the company’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr last year. This year, Mayer rose from No.32 to 18. Mayer is building the Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) media presence, hired journalist Katie Couric, and has announced plans to produce original programming. Still in her thirties, Mayer was number 32 on the list last year.

Number 20 is Meg Whitman, president and CEO of HP (Nasdaq: HPQ). A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Whitman has held herself to a one-dollar salary for the last three years. Her experience includes ten years as eBay CEO and directorships with of P&G and Zipcar. She also ventured into political life, launching a self-funded bid to become California governor in 2010. She didn’t win but she did set a record for spending more of her own money on her campaign than any other self-funded candidate did.

Ursula Burns, the chair and CEO of Xerox, is 22nd on the list. Burns is the first African-American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. She started at Xerox (Nasdaq: XRX)in 1980 as an intern, then moved up through product development and planning, before succeeding Anne Mulcahy as CEO in 2009.

Oracle co-president and CFO Safra Catz is at number 24. Often referred to as the highest-paid female executive, Catz had a banking career before joining Oracle in 1999. Forbes notes that, like IBM’s Rometty, Catz turned down her US$717,000 bonus last year because of the company’s poor financial performance. Catz is also known as a dealmaker, having led Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) acquisitions worth billions of dollars.

Others in the top 100 include Intel (Nasdaq: INTC)president Renee James (#37), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)CFO Amy Hood (#48), Alibaba founder Lucy Peng (#53) and Huawei chair Sun Yafang (#81).

Forbes ends on a cautionary note: “It’s worth nothing that while many of these enterprises are a womb for progressive ideas and innovations, their frat-boy culture remains a challenge.”

Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks is managing editor of IT World Canada. He has been a technology journalist and editor for 20 years, including stints at Technology in Government, Computing Canada and other publications.

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