Women in tech: Leading the geek world one stiletto at a time

It seems no matter how much society evolves, women are always left just that little bit behind. No, this is not an article about gender equality — this is a tech site for crying out loud. As Google’s Marissa Mayer recently wrote about IBM CEO Virginia Rometty for her inclusion in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2012, “women in the workplace and women in technology will be key drivers of global competitiveness and innovation in the future.”

Interestingly, Rometty and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg are the only two tech company heads on the list which included 38 women this year, more than ever before. So we thought we’d put together a little list to highlight some of the kickass women in tech today, styling up the geek world one Manolo Blahnik at a time. This is not a complete list; these are just the ones we picked, and there are many other women out there making their mark in tech.

Here are 20+ women leading that innovation and competitiveness Mayer was referring to:

Carol Bartz
Yahoo’s ex-CEO and this list’s brash girl. If she thought it, she said it. Bartz has been burning up boardrooms for a while now; in 1992 she took over Autodesk, which according to Forbes, she transformed “from an aimless maker of PC software into a leader of computer-aided design software, targeting architects and builders”. The publication included her in its list of 100 most powerful women in the world in 2005. One thing is for sure: we’ll never forget her, and neither will Yahoo’s board members. After all, she did call of them “doofuses” when they fired her over the phone.

Mary Meeker
Mary Meeker is a venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst with a primary focus on the internet — you knew that, right? Every time Meeker releases her global online trends at Web 2.0 conferences every tech publication is itching to analyse and discuss them. In 2004, Morgan Stanley (with Meeker as research analyst) served as lead manager for the initial public offering of Google. According to Fortune magazine, Meeker is “absolutely first rate when it comes to spotting big-picture trends before they come into focus. She gathers massive amounts of data and assembles it into voluminous reports that, while sometimes rambling and overambitious, are stuffed with a million jumping-off points”.

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer is Google’s Vice President of Location and Local Services and possibly one of the geekiest girls on this list. Mayer graduated from Stanford University with degrees in Symbolic Systems and Computer Science specialising in artificial intelligence — how much geekier can you get? Mayer was the first female engineer hired at Google and one of their first 20 employees. At 36, she is definitely in a good place career-wise. She was recently added to Wal-Mart’s board of directors boosting female membership to 25%.

Cher Wang
Wang is the co-founder and chairperson of the HTC Corporation and VIA Technologies, where her husband is CEO. In a profile by Forbes she is described as “the most influential woman in wireless”. Wang and her husband, Wenchi Chen, are worth US$6.8-billion as of our last count, making them the wealthiest couple in Taiwan. But she doesn’t really like to be known for that. According to Forbes, she prefers to be known for her contribution to technology.

Chloe Sladden
Fastcompany calls her the “reigning queen of cross-pollinating Twitter conversations and real-time events”. Sladden is the head of media partnerships at Twitter. “I care most about connecting people around things they’re passionate about,” says Sladden. Sladden and her team at Twitter harness the power of hashtags and @ replies and turned them into what she calls “a 360-degree experience”.

Heather Harde
Harde is the former CEO of TechCrunch and General Manager of AOL’s technology properties (which include Engadget, Joystiq, and TUAW). A former News Corp. executive, Harde is no stranger to the tech world. “When I was in M&A at Fox Interactive, the companies that were coming to pitch us — the opening slide of their deck was always ‘as reported on TechCrunch’,” Harde says. “I had an appreciation of how difficult it was to create a brand in media. TechCrunch had become a brand. It now needed to scale into a media property,” she said in a Fastcompany profile.

Ory Okolloh
Okolloh is a Kenyan activist, lawyer and blogger. She’s currently the Policy Manager for Africa with Google. Okolloh is one of the co-creators of Ushahidi, a website that collected and recorded eyewitness reports of violence using text messages and Google Maps. According to Fastcompany, “Okolloh’s work is stunning in its singularity of purpose: using technology to ensure that the voices of African citizens are heard.”

Arianna Huffington
From socialite to media mogul, you have to respect Huffington regardless of your feelings toward her. Huffington did a good job alienating a big time blogging disruptor last year with her “unpaid blogger” jibe. Huffington is hoping to conquer the world,and rolling out versions of the Huffington Post around Europe. She was named one of Fastcompany’s 10 Most Creative People on Twitter. Go figure.

Kara Swisher
Founder and Editor of AllThingsD, Swisher isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Columnist for the Wall Street Journal and an author and online commentator, she’s not scared to write about Twilight either. She is the author of aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads and Made Millions in the War for the Web, and the sequel, There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future.

Meg Whitman
President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Whitman served as an executive for DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble and Hasbro and was President and CEO of eBay for 10 years. With Whitman at the helm, eBay grew to approximately 15 000 employees and US$8 billion in annual revenue by 2008. According to the book, Managing Now. Cengage Learning, Whitman organised the company by splitting it into 23 business categories. She then assigned executives to each, including some 35 000 subcategories.

Sarah Lacy
Like Kara Swisher, Lacy is a tech journalist most female tech journalists idolise. Carving out a name for herself as a columnist at Techcrunch, Lacy is the founder and editor of Pando Daily, a tech news site. She co-hosts web video show Yahoo! Tech Ticker and is a columnist at BusinessWeek. She’s also the author of 2 books: Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good, which also goes under the title “The Stories of Facebook, Youtube and Myspace”, and Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: “How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos”.

Randi Zuckerberg
Sister to Mark Zuckerberg and former Director of Market Development and Spokeswoman for Facebook, girl Zuckerberg has been in the headlines recently for a reality television show she’s producing with Bravo about Silicon Valley. Sarah Lacy wrote a rather candid letter calling it disappointing and asking Zuckerberg how she could do such a thing to Silicon Valley. Zuckerberg responded on Facebook saying, “I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge or back down from critique.”

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s intrepid COO who recently made headlines because she said it was okay to leave a tech job at 5pm. Prior to joining Facebook, Sandberg was Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. She also was involved in launching Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org. She is one of tech personalities that made the 2012 Time 100 influential people in the world.

Juliana Rotich
The prolific blogger who co-founded Ushahidi, and the second Kenyan on this list, Rotich is an African Futurist and a TED Senior Fellow. She often speaks at international conferences about technology in Africa.

Alexa Hirschfeld
Saving the planet one invite at a time, Alexa Hirschfeld is the founder of Paperless Post, a formal digital invitation service that allows people to send out wedding invites and other formal occasion notices. “People don’t use Evite or Facebook events for their weddings,” Alexa says in Fastcompany. “But they do use Paperless Post. It’s the sign of a paradigm because it is the most momentous occasion in most people’s lives. It represents the most formal type of offline communication.”

Angela Beesley Starling
Starling is the co-founder of Wikia and its former vice president for community relations. Involved in Wikipedia since 2003, Beesley was elected to the Board of Trustees of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation in 2004.

Virginia Rometty
President and CEO of IBM, Rometty is the first woman to head IBM. She packs a lot of power — Fortune magazine named her among “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” for seven years in a row, with a number seven ranking in 2011. She was of course named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Notable mentions

Michelle Kadir — Director of Product Development, Spotify.
Sarah Lane — Internet personality and TWit TV host.
Alexia Tsotsis — Co-Editor, TechCrunch.
Jolie O’Dell — Author, VentureBeat.



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