Women have always had a hand in shaping technology as we know it,
and have been there since the very beginning. Let’s not forget Ada Lovelace,
who wrote the first working computer algorithm based on just a blueprint of
Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, and who perceived from the outset that
these computers could do more than just calculations.
While the world debates how to improve gender diversity in the
tech industry, let’s take some time to celebrate the women who are amongst the
biggest movers and shakers in the business today. We’ve highlighted five here,
but the list is considerably longer than that.
Gwynne Shotwell – President and COO, SpaceX
Gwynne Shotwell wanted a career in the automotive industry, wound
up deciding that aerospace was far more exciting, and now finds herself in a
position to have a huge say in the future of commercial space exploration.
Shotwell is the President and COO of Elon Musk’s SpaceX program,
and is second in command behind Founder and CEO Musk. She has been with the
company since its conception in 2002, joining as its seventh employee.
Since its modest days as a startup, SpaceX has now over 3,000
employees, and is the only commercial company to carry out cargo resupply
missions to the International Space Station. SpaceX has a US$1.6 billion
contract with NASA for 12 flights, and have completed five to date.
Shotwell says in a
Popular Mechanics interview that SpaceX
alone “will be saving the U.S. taxpayers two to three billion dollars a year.”
It’s not exactly rocket science then to work out that Musk and Shotwell’s efforts
might give the American space program a long-needed shot in the arm.
Marissa Mayer – CEO, Yahoo
Travesty is best defined as not having Marissa Mayer – arguably
the biggest newsmaker in tech – in a list like this.
While her worldly presence was established at Yahoo, Mayer
actually made her professional reputation at Google, where she was their first
female engineer. There, she developed her legendary attention to detail. Mayer
was involved in some of Google’s best-known products, such as Google Search,
Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View, Google News, and Gmail, amongst others.
In her short tenure at Yahoo, she has already garnered a
tongue-in-cheek reputation as a “spender-in-chief”, picking up Tumblr for US$1.1
billion and spending over US$100 million in acquiring 21 companies.
Every action that she takes invites scrutiny. Some critics
questioned her stubbornness in not cutting jobs, others praise her decisiveness
in making Yahoo relevant in the mobile space, and everyone is discussing the
implications of Yahoo spinning off its substantial stake in Alibaba. Even her
pose in a Vogue magazine feature gets plenty of traction on the Internet.
Only time will tell if Mayer will
prevail in reinventing Yahoo, but until then the world will continue to keep
its watchful eye on its most talked-about female CEO.
Cher Wang – Co-founder and Chair, HTC
CEO Peter Chou is undoubtedly the face of HTC thanks to his involvement in the design and development of their highly acclaimed HTC One phones. But silently in the shadows, fellow co-founder Cher Wang goes about her mission to bring back the glory days.
Despite the rave reviews of their flagship phones, HTC has not
done quite as well in the bean counters’ books. Wang, who had been spending
more of her time on philanthropic pursuits, has now taken on a bigger role in
HTC’s day-to-day operations. While she insists that she’s just supporting Chou
while he focuses on product development, she’s effectively been tasked to put
HTC back on track on the business front.
Wang’s pedigree in the business is unquestionable. Her vision of a
future with handheld computing led to the founding of HTC, and the company
became synonymous with the earliest touch screen smartphones and deliver world
firsts of their own in the form of the first Android smartphone and the first
Microsoft phones. She is also one of the co-founders of integrated chipset
maker Via Technologies.
Wang’s low-key return is very much in line with her unassuming and
grounded nature, which may well be what the company needs right now. With Chou
and Wang at the helm, HTC may now have their best chance of standing their
ground in an increasingly competitive smartphone market.
Susan Wojcicki – CEO, YouTube
Susan Wojcicki joined Google as employee number 16 and as its
first marketing manager. She has the unusual honour of being the first employee
at Google to go on maternity leave, which actually is a testament to her
gutsiness in joining an ambitious startup while four months pregnant. It’s only
slightly less interesting than the fact that she has the honour of being
Google’s first landlord; the company first set up shop in her garage.
Prior to her YouTube appointment, Susan Wojcicki was the senior
vice-president of advertising and commerce at Google, and was responsible for
driving many of its signature products such as AdSense, the company’s
second-largest source of income. Her portfolio once accounted for over 95% of
the company’s revenue, so it’s not a stretch to think that she could well be
one of the biggest figures in advertising.
In February 2014, she took up the reins at YouTube presumably with
the task of making the company even more profitable. Her appointment will not
have come as a surprise, as Susan had initially championed the purchase of
YouTube having seen its potential firsthand. And we’re pretty sure she’ll
Renée J James – President, Intel
Intel is looking at a future beyond the traditional PC market, and
the company turned to the dynamic duo of Brian Krzanich (CEO) and Renée J
James. Interestingly, James didn’t cut her teeth designing or peddling silicon,
and is known for her work in no-chip businesses at Intel. Her experience might
be what the company needs to thrive in the world of mobile and the Internet of
James spearheaded Intel Online Services, a foray into data centre
outsourcing that was unfortunately way ahead of its time. She managed the
Microsoft Program Group at Intel, ensuring seamless integration of hardware and
software between the two giants. James was also the executive vice-president of
software and services and oversaw products like Havok, McAfee, Meego, Tizen,
and Wind River. She holds directorships in leading companies like VMware and
Vodafone and advises US President Barack Obama as vice-chairperson of the
National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC).
James has also taken it upon herself to spearhead Intel’s US$300
million Diversity in Technology initiative, marking her as a true mover and
shaker in the world of tech, in more ways than one. The initiative seeks to get
more women and ethnic minorities into the company, with the aim of achieving
workforce diversity that resembles actual demographics by 2020.
Although women account for only 11% (according to a recent study
by Fenwick & West) of executive positions in tech, it’s at least comforting
to see that this list almost reads like a who’s who of technology leaders.
Whitman (Ex-CEO of eBay, current CEO of HP)
Yafang (Chairwoman of Huawei)
Sandberg (COO of Facebook)
Rometty (CEO of IBM)
Ada Catz (Co-CEO of Oracle)
Warrior (CTO of Cisco)
Burns (CEO of Xerox)
By Justin Choo / March 10, 2015 10:00AM GMT+8
Tags: Tech Storm, TechStorm, TV, Women In Tech, Women, International Women’s Day, March, Gwynne Shotwell, Marissa Mayer, Cher Wang, Susan Wojcicki, Renée J James, NASA, yahoo!, HTC, Google, YouTube, Intel
Disclaimer: The above images and trademarks are the sole and exclusive properties of their respective owners and are reproduced herein for the purpose of fair criticism and review.