According to the advocacy organisation Women in Tech, only 23% of tech jobs in SA are held by women. Globally, women occupy 26% of computing occupations. While these statistics are poor, it shouldn’t discourage young female school-goers, school-leavers and university graduates from entering the IT industry.
Three of the most popular women in IT hold top positions at three of the world’s most popular technology companies: Google, Facebook and Yahoo!. We profile them here:
Marissa Mayer: President and CEO of Yahoo!
Early in her studies, Marissa Mayer had wanted to become a paediatric neurosurgeon, but she changed her major to focus on symbolic systems, which includes the study of artificial intelligence, cognitive sciences and interaction between humans and computers. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science (and later a Master of Science) in Computer Science, and in her post-graduate work, contributed heavily to the field of search. It came as no surprise that after graduating, she received 14 job offers! Mayer signed on to Google in 1999 – its 20th employee – and became Google’s first female engineer, also responsible for many of the company’s search offerings that has made it such a successful engine.
Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo! in July 2012 as president and CEO, and implemented changes to the company’s culture programmes, personnel policy on telecommuting (for which she was heavily criticised) and also extended maternity leave and pay. In the year following Mayer’s appointment, Yahoo!’s stock price doubled – this in spite of sharp criticism from outsiders of her management style. She is, however, very active in the industry and sits on various boards – both company and non-profit – and has achieved multiple awards and honours for her position and influence.
Sheryl Sandberg: COO of Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg has strove for achievement from a young age – having been top of her class in school, class president in her sophomore year, a member of the National Honour Society, and graduating summa cum laude at Harvard with a BA in Economics. In 1995, Sandberg received her MBA with highest distinction. Following graduation, Sandberg worked at McKinsey, then served as Chief of Staff for the US Secretary of Treasury. Sheryl Sandberg moved into technology when she joined Google in 2001 as its Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations.
In 2007, Sandberg was considering moving to The Washington Post as senior executive, but met Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party, and in early 2008, she was hired as Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. She adopted the task of making Facebook profitable, and through the use of discreet advertising, the company’s profits suddenly started to grow by 2010. According to Forbes, “Sandberg helped the social network scale globally, go public and expand digital revenue.” Sandberg is responsible for overseeing business operations relating to sales and marketing, business development, public policy, HR and communications for Facebook. She is also known for advocating for workplace equality and released her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead in early 2013. It has since become a global success with over 1 million copies sold.
Susan Wojcicki: CEO of YouTube
Susan Wojcicki (pronounced “vu-CHIT-ski”) comes from a family of female achievers – her sister Janet holds a PhD as an anthropologist and epidemiologist. Her other sister Anne is the founder of the personal genomics and biotechnology company, 23andMe. Susan was appointed as Google’s 16th employee. However, it was in her garage in Menlo Park that Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, set up their office.
Susan Wojcicki studied at Harvard, graduating with honours in history and literature. She’d planned on pursuing academics, but soon discovered technology and received her Masters of Science in Economics (1993) and her MBA (1998). A year after Google became incorporated, Wojcicki was hired as the company’s first marketing manager in 1999. Her primary focus was on viral programmes and the first Google doodles, and helped develop Google Images and Google Books.
She became the Senior VP of Advertising and Commerce at Google, leading ad and analytic products (AdWords, DoubleClick and Google Analytics), and developed AdSense – Google’s second largest source of revenue. It was under Wojcicki’s leadership that Google purchased YouTube ($1.65 billion), which would replace Google Video, and DoubleClick ($3.1 billion). She held the office of Senior VP of YouTube, becoming its CEO in February 2014.
In 2011, she was named “the most important person in advertising” and holds many positions on lists that praise the most popular, influential and powerful women. She values the balance between work and family life – and, with five children, is a strong advocate of paid maternity leave.
The ICT industry provides endless opportunities for South Africans to advance their careers and although it is still largely male-dominated, there are more and more woman that are making great strides in changing the face of the industry.
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