It’s Ada Lovelace Day and to share the woman in tech who inspires me was hard. I can think of a lot of fantastic tech heroines. Ultimately, I choose Carol Bartz, ex CEO of Yahoo and AutoDesk. Throughout her entire career she has not been afraid to be a woman in a hostile environment. She stayed in tech, she fought to the top of the industry and she kept a family life balance, saying it’s not possible to be perfect. She looks totally glamorous, swears like a trooper and worked her way through a comp sci degree as a cocktail waitress.
On balancing a career with family, Bartz says: “I have a belief that life isn’t about balance, because balance is perfection … Rather, it’s about catching the ball before it hits the floor.” ^ Kharif, Olga. “To Autodesk – and Beyond?”, Business Week. (May 12, 2004) via Wikipedia/Carol Bartz.
In the 70s, Bartz worked at 3M but they wouldn’t promote her because “women don’t do these jobs”, so she moved on to various companies including DEC and Sun Microsystems. As CEO of Autodesk in 1992, Bartz transformed the company into a focussed highly successful business. Bartz also served on several boards and has been a member of the United States President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Bartz’s move to Yahoo in 2009 was perhaps a ‘glass cliff’ as most were sceptical about the chances to resurrect one of the original internet dinosaurs, huge but facing extinction.
In spite of pleasing business analysts with her performance over the last two years, Bartz was ignonimously dumped from Yahoo a few weeks ago, whereupon she called the board a bunch of ‘doofuses’ who had ‘fucked her over’. I love how Bartz went out fighting. She also continues to behave with integrity, honoring commitments made before leaving Yahoo for talks, donations, and visits.
She’s telling it like it is. Sometimes it just can’t be rosy for women in tech. I love the Wired cover of Limor Fried, who is another kickass tech girl goddess. But evoking Rosie the Riveter just reminds me of what happened to all those women who ran the factories and farms while the men were at war. Booted out when the war was over.
Although Ada may have been forgotten, originally computer programming was going to be a female job, while the men built the hardware. But it seems that the moment an industry looks interesting and/or lucrative, it becomes a male industry.
Statistically, no matter how well women are performing academically, and no matter how many great role models we can now point to, there still aren’t many women at the top.
“Since 1966, the number of women receiving bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in the US has increased every year to come close to half. The proportion of grad students closer to 40%. The more technical an area is seen to be, the fewer the number of women.
Research on women’s participation in the “hard” sciences such as physics and computer science speaks of the “leaky pipeline” model, in which the propoertion of women “on track” to potentially becoming top scientists falls off at every step of the way, from getting interested in science and math in elementary school, through doctorate, postdoc, and career steps. Various reasons are proposed for this, but the vast differences in the “leakiness” of this same pipe across countries and times argue for a cultural interpretation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_science