8 Women Who Are Taking the Tech World By Storm

Recently findings from the performance management company New Relic indicate that encouraging more women to join the technology industry could significantly boost industry performance.

Technology companies with more women in management positions have a 34% higher return on investments. Teams with at least one women tend to perform higher on collective intelligence than those with only men. Despite holding only 25% of IT positions and 18% of computer science degrees, women are emerging more and more as innovators in the technology field. Here are some superstar women to look out for in the technology industry.

1. Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology & Strategy Officer at Cisco Systems

“I always tell women to use the fact that we offer a different point of view in a room full of men to their advantage”

Warrior is a mother, executive, and innovation strategist at the $47 billion revenue tech giant Cisco. She focuses not on a “work-life balance,” but rather focuses on “life integration.” Cisco CEO John Chambers has described Warrior as “among the sharpest technology persons in the world.” She has been named of the World’s Most Powerful Women by Forbes Magazine. She holds a MSci in chemical engineering from Cornell, and a BA from the Indian Institute of Technology.

2. Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, CEO at IBM

“I think this is a time of great inclusion. It’s not men, it’s not women alone. Whether it’s geographic, it’s approach, it’s your style, it’s your way of learning, the way you want to contribute, it’s your age — it is really broad.”

The first female CEO of IBM, a company with $104 billion revenue, Rometty has been named one of the World’s Most Powerful Women. She helped register the company’s highest stock price in its 101-year history. Marissa Mayer has named Rometty a “tremendous inspiration.” Rometty holds a BS/BA in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Northwestern University.

3. Hilary Mason, Data Scientist at Accel Partners

“We need to create experiences that nurture men and women together so that more people are inspired to create beautiful, technical things together”

Mason is the first Data Scientist in Residence at Accel Partners, a global venture and equity firm that manages over $8.8 billion. Formerly chief scientist at Bitly and co-founder of HackNY, she is an adviser to numerous up and coming ventures like DataKind and knod.es. She has been named one of Fortune Magazine‘s “40 under 40.” She holds a BA in Computer Science from Grinnell College.

4. Susan Landau, Distinguished Engineer, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

a”There are too many smart women whose skills we’re not using. It is not only the women who suffer; it is also academia and industry who lose the skills of such talented people.”

Landau is currently a visiting scholar in Harvard’s computer science department. She spent over decade as a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems Laboratories working on security, cryptography, and policy. She won the top “200 Women of Vision” award from the Antia Borg Institute in 2008. She has a PhD in Computer Science from MIT her BA in Mathematics from Princeton.

5. Melody Meckfessel, Director of Engineering at Google

“Over the years, I was generally the only woman in room, and I adapted, in many ways, to be one of the guys.”

Meckfessel oversees the team that constructs the programing tools used by engineers at Google to keep the technology giant running. Her coworker at Google said, “She’s not on a crusade to prove that women deserve to be in that place. She just knows she deserves to be in that place.”

6. Shikoh Gitau, Founder of Ummeli

“I requested to be sent back home because I believe this is where I could have the most impact … All I wanted to do was change lives using technology.” 

Gitau is the African-based creator of Ummeli, a mobile network that helps developing countries create their own employment opportunities. She has worked for prominent non-profits including UNICEF, and now works for Google’s User Experience Group in Africa. Gitau was also the first African to win Google’s Anita Borg award. She has a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Capetown.

7. Sara Haider, Senior Software Engineer at Twitter

“My love for video games and the web pulled me toward computer science, and I feel blessed every day that I get to work on things I’m passionate about.”

Haider is a lead software engineer at Twitter, the social networking giant with ad revenue projected to reach over $1 billion by 2014. She works closely on building Twitter’s capabilities for Android. She has previously worked as a consultant for PA Consulting Group and Google. She has a BA in Software Engineering and Cognitive Science from the University of Waterloo.

8. Kristen Titus, Executive Director at Girls Who Code

‘We need to really talk about what innovation means … it’s from that discourse that we’re going to see a real substantive change.”

Titus is the Executive Director of Girls Who Code, a non-profit that educates and motivates women to participate in the field of technology. She helped launch Jumo, the “social network for the social sector” from Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes. She sits on the Board of Doc2Dock and is an Adviser at Crisis Text Line and NonprofitShare. She has a BA from the University of Madison, Wisconsin.

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Why are Women So Poorly Represented in Foreign Policy?

A popular photoshop job removing the  men from the powerful image of world leaders gathering at the solidarity march in Paris early this January in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack shows only three women: Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, Paris Mayor Ane Hidalgo, and EU Foreign Affairs Chief Frederica  Mogherini stood of some of just a few women visible in most publicity shots of world leaders in marching side by side (although a number of others, including Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt were in attendance).

While any attempt to take away from what was surely a powerful moment which brought forward powerful imagery of Arab and Israeli leaders marching side by side, the point is self-evident: women are seriously underrepresented in foreign policy.

The problem varies in severity and nature across domestic contexts, but what evidence is visible even across U.S. policymaking proves the point: According to Foreign Policy,  women make up only 21 percent of U.S. government policy-related positions.

Still,  women today make up a record-high number of world leaders: with a total of 22 female world leaders serving at some point in 2014, to be precise. These include Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff, President Cristina Fernandez de Kircher of Argentina, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed of Bangladesh, President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, President Michele Bachelet of Chile, and so on. A number of them were proudly visible in this 2014’s World Cup where Germany and Brazil faced off for the title of global soccer champion in Argentina — countries all of which happen to be run by women.

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Still, various vital areas of foreign-policy making across sectors are missing women’s voices. Despite the fact that women make up a huge percentage of the sector’s workforce, women are rarely in charge of most major Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Women’s representation in executive positions is, of course, low across all industries. But according to recent reports, the figure is particularly low in the NGO sector, where women head just 12% of major NGOs in the United States.

The reasons why women appear to be struggling to rise to the highest positions are, of course, difficult to measure. Some claim the particularly travel-heavy schedules of NGO leaders are hard to balance with family, while others insist there are significant roadblocks based on gender bias in the field. But, no matter the cause, the low figures in gender representation are surprising given the nature of the industry, and merit serious consideration.

Women fill an estimated 70% of nonprofit staff positions in the United States. While some have risen to take charge of a number of important organizations, their representation in leadership roles is low across the board. The issue is the same globally. Women run just 27% of NGOs in the UK, despite holding a significant number of administrative and support roles. Of the most influential and highly funded group of British aid organizations (known collectively as the British Overseas Aid Group), only one is run by a woman.  While the figures are difficult to measure in other regions, women working in Kenya and South Africa have estimated that women run only around 10-15% of NGOs in their countries.

These figures are, of course, in line with some of the figures in other sectors. Last year, women held only 14.3% of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies (a quarter of which had no women in these roles at all).

But what makes the figures in the NGO sector particularly remarkable is the fact that the industry has focused so heavily on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The World Bank, for example, has worked tirelessly on promoting its “gender equality for development” initiatives. The Council on Foreign Relations has consistently reported on a proven link between women’s empowerment and economic progress. Most of the major international NGOs, such as Oxfam, MercyCorps, and Care, have incorporated women’s empowerment programs as a key element of their missions, despite being led by men.

Joanna Kerr, executive director of ActionAid International and former executive director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, told writers at the Guardian that part of the problem was the nature of the job. She cites having travelled for up to 65% of the time as a leader of development organizations, explaining that this can be hard for women to balance with family.

But Kerr claims that on top of these challenges that can exist in balancing family, there remains some bias in the industry making it difficult for women to rise up in most organizations. Women “are not necessarily perceived as leaders in their own organizations,” she lamented, saying, “What I have tried to build as co-creative leadership has been billed as weak or indecisive. And when I am decisive it is perceived as too aggressive or challenging.”

Still, Loretta Minghella, director of ChristianAid, said that although she faced roadblocks climbing up in her organization, they were not unlike those she encountered when working in finance and as a lawyer. “I’m not sure that the barriers for women’s leadership in the NGO sector generally are that different from those in other sectors,” she said, “which is a bit disappointing.”

The Atlantic interviewed prominent American women to discuss their own experiences a piece in 2012, who cited a variety of roadblocks to women’s leadership, from the traits of masculinity being tied to excellence standards in the national security field to the very real difficulties women face in the ‘work-life-balance.’

Whatever the root of the issue, it is surprising to see so few women in executive positions in an industry that has become so focused on working to promote gender empowerment globally. The fact that the figure is so low inside the United States is particularly alarming. The gender issue, it seems clear, deserves continued consideration in the organizations’ work around the world, but also inside their boardrooms and offices.

You can read Michah Zenko, of CFR’s, 2012 interview ‘Where are all the women in Foreign Policy?” here.

India’s Taxis For Women, By Women

In the aftermath of India’s high profile gang rape case last December still dragging on this summer, the problem of sexual violence in India has been painfully brought to the fore. And, with a slew of horrific stories of attacks on India’s womenchildrenaid workers, and tourists over the past year or so, it may not be surprising that the country has seen a sharp decline in tourism rates as more and more women feel unsafe traveling around India’s cities.

But one New Delhi woman, Meenu Vadera, has offered a new, relatively unheard of solution to address both the immediate safety concerns and underlying social challenges women face. She founded New Delhi’s first and only all-female Taxi service “Women on Wheels” (a Shaka Consulting Wings Company) in 2008, a women-run taxicab company that helps provide jobs for resource-poor women while simultaneously helping women feel safer when traveling around one of India’s most dangerous cities, particularly at night.

The business is supported by local NGO investors to help keep the programs affordable, and has begun to gather momentum with increased international media coverage of Vadera’s business as an innovative solution to India’s sexual violence problem. In addition to driving, women are taught self defense by the Delhi Police, and are provided a special “Crimes against Women” cell phone to equip them with the means to deal with any untoward incident that they may face on the roads.

Vadera’s Taxis have been highlighted in a range of international media outlets, ranging from Arab to Thai to British newspapers, as a creative business model that can be translatable across contexts as a way to keep women safe in transit that can, at the same time, promote women’s entrepreneurship.

Female-driven taxi services are not, of course, an entirely novel concept. For example, London’s ‘Pink Ladies’ Taxicabs are have become a niche female service catering to generally upper-class Londoners who prefer the cleanliness and safety of an all-female service. But Vadera’s business model in New Delhi is particularly notable for its multi-faceted approach that aims to help empower resource-poor women to become financially independent as drivers, while simultaneously protecting women by providing a safe space for them passengers to feel more comfortable maneuvering around the city.

“We’re talking about empowerment,” said Vadera in a recent interview with the Washington Post, adding, “For us, what is more important is to establish the role of women in public transport. We would like to have a large enough presence that breaks the perception forever,” she explained about the difficulties women face in transport and in business, adding that she hopes to, “Open these doors for women,” so that they can feel safe and empowered maneuvering the streets of India.

She said the Taxi system is an ideal way to help women to gain skills and financial gains that other industries can’t offer because of the flexibility of the service. “You cannot have women working 15 hours a day, not because they don’t want to, but because that’s what men tell women as they are meant to have other responsibilities within the family,” she said, “So we had to create a working environment to let them do this.”

But the business is not without its challenges. In a series of interviews with global media company Tempo TV available below, women Taxicab drivers in Vadera’s service mentioned facing challenges maneuvering the roads dominated by male counterparts. “The minute they see a female driver,” one Women on Wheels driver lamented, “They immediately start honking and overtaking … They’ll stare at us as if we’re aliens.”

Of course the ideal is a city environment in which both women and men feel confident and safe as drivers and passengers in every available form of transit and in all city streets. But Vadera is confident that her business offers a two-fold solution to gender violence few other solutions can offer. “We would like the women drivers to at one stage become shareholders in the company,” she explained. “We’re also expanding to different cities. We now have a presence in Gurgaon, we’ve started in Jaipur and are probably going to start in Kolkata, so four cities in total over the next three years.”

International observers should pay close attention to Vadera’s taxicab business as it continues to expand. The concept is one that may be relatively easy to replicate in a variety of contexts where women face similar challenges. The program’s ability to provide services for women, by women, helps marry goals for women’s economic progress and gender equality, which, the evidence suggests, are considered more and more inextricably linked.

 

READ MORE from my original article at mic.com.

MORE: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/01/19/indias-new-pink-taxi-fleet-for-women-offers-pepper-spray-panic-buttons/