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Human Capital Management

Name That Woman (in Tech)

That the number of women in tech is notoriously low is common knowledge. The male to female ratio at some of the world’s biggest tech companies still remains around 60/30. It’s also well known that there needs to be more encouragement, and central to that is the idea of prominent role models. However when McAfee & Bletchley Park recently conducted a study of 4,000 people in the UK aged 18-64 looking at whether people were able to recognize some of the biggest names in the tech industry,the results were not good for women.

From a list of ten male tech leaders and ten female tech leaders, almost everyone recognised at least one male from the list, with 90% recognising the name Bill Gates, 78% knew of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and 70% had heard of Steve Jobs. But almost three quarters of respondents didn't know a single woman from the list, with the most popular lady on the list, Martha Lane Fox, founder of Lastminute.com, being recognised by only 17%. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg? Only 8% knew the name. Marissa Mayer? Only 5%.

When the study’s respondents are split by gender, women are shown to be less able to name tech leaders across the board; just 28% of women recognised the name Tim Berners-Lee (42% of males could), 8% knew of Steve Ballmer (20% of men) and 4% had heard of Oracle’s Larry Ellison (12% of men had). For the majority of female tech leaders, the gap is even wider; female awareness for most of the names was around half that (or worse) of the men.

One point worth picking up is the slightly strange listings. They list Marissa Mayer as “Google's first female engineer” but not “CEO of Yahoo”, and label Google’s Susan Wojcicki as an “ad wizard,” not “CEO of Youtube”. Teresa Carlon moved on from Microsoft to Amazon Web Services years ago, and strangest of all is the inclusion of HP VP Ann Livermore but not its female CEO, Meg Whitman. They don’t list Steve Wozniak as the “founder, Wheels of Zeus and Acquicor Technology” or ask anyone to name male VPs, which seems a little unfair.

 

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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