Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer last year became Yahoo’s first female CEO.
Image: JD Lasica via Flickr CC

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg often discusses women’s need to “lean in” (in fact that was the title of her book) and put themselves at the table.  She and other industry advocates for women often lament the statistic that only 9% of Fortune 5000 CIOs are female, even though women make up half the workforce and more than half of university students.  The attention to the issue, however, has brought forth a movement of empowerment and accomplishment among women in technology fields.

Along with Sandberg, there is a mighty female force behind some of the largest technology companies out there.  Last year, Marissa Mayer became Yahoo’s first female CEO after leaving a high executive position at Google.  The heads of Hewlett Packard (Meg Whitman), IBM (Ginni Rometty), and Xerox (Ursula Burns) are female, as are the chief information officers at Intel and Fox Entertainment.  The number of women may be low, but they are heading some of the most powerful companies in the world.

Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns is the CEO of Xerox, the first ever female African American CEO of a Fortune 500 Company.
Image: Fortune Live Media via Flickr CC

The additional attention to the issue and this core group of powerful women in technology could really provide the energy needed to encourage girls to choose careers in technology.  Right now, only about a third of female teenagers even consider a career in technology, and a wide majority of those that do say they only considered it after someone explained the social and economic value they could have with that path.

The effects may already be in place. A runner up this year at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair was an 18 year old woman from Saratoga, with her entry of a tiny energy storing device with potential to charge a cell phone in less than thirty seconds.  About half of the 17 top award winners at the fair were female.  While this is not a promise that high percentages of women will suddenly enter technology careers, but the future is looking brighter every day.