Missing in Action: Women Executives in the Technology Provider’s C-Suite

Wouldn’t you know it had to happen in the same week that the most prominent woman candidate for president dropped out of the race?[i] A week in which many women, regardless of a political party, were left disappointed, waiting for a breakthrough event that was not going to materialize – again?

If you’re wondering how this relates to a business technology research note, here it is. In that same week, I was briefed by a vendor company about their latest accomplishments. They had the revenue growth chart, the obligatory slide of impressive corporate logos, and the list of latest customer wins, all of which put the company in a very good light. But then, up flashed a slide with photos of the firm’s deeply credentialed executive team. No minorities. Two women, but as is typical, neither was in a strategic executive position. One was the chief people officer and the other was the chief legal officer – important positions, to be sure, but considered to be functional support. Where’s the female CFO? CTO? CMO?

A look at the numbers

It doesn’t matter which technology vendor I’m talking about – the story is virtually the same for all of them. Although the latest Statista data shows that women hold 26.5% of executive/ senior-level management positions in S&P 500 companies[i] – the ranks of female execs thin noticeably once mid-management positions are removed from the count. For example:

  • Currently, women represent only 5% of leadership positions in the tech sector.[ii]
  • Women hold 11% of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies.[iii]
  • According to Entelo’s research in early 2018, only 18% of roles in tech, including engineering, data science, product design, and more, are held by women in the US, and the ratio falls even more sharply when considering seniority.[iv]
  • At the senior level, the percentage of women in tech roles drops to 16%.[v]

One senior-level woman I talked with last year told me the dearth of women C-level execs results from the lack of qualified candidates. Please. There are plenty of qualified female candidates in the talent pool ready and waiting for someone to give them a chance, just as there are plenty of mid-level female executives who could be trained, coached, and mentored to fill executive positions in the years to come. But for this goal to become a reality, it will take: 1) senior executive awareness that there’s a need for female (and minority) candidates, 2) a conscious plan to act within a specific time period, and 3) an across-the-board effort to hire and foster female candidates, to feed promotions to senior-level positions over the long run.

Why in 2020 are we still talking about the lack of female executives in technology companies (and STEM positions across all companies)? I think it’s because there’s a blind spot in corporate America about the problem, coupled with a laissez-faire approach to addressing the issue. Women leaders who focus 100% of their attention on this issue add one more critical point: it’s about the entrenched leaders not wanting to give power to women.

Regardless of the cause, the data shows that men and women across a wide range of backgrounds believe the US has not gone far enough in creating opportunities for women, especially in comparison to other countries (see Figure 1 below).


Why does it matter?

Fixing the dearth of female and minority senior executives (and corporate board members) truly matters because it could actually impact the top line numbers. I’m not saying that business deals hinge on the number of women holding C-level jobs at any given vendor, but for certain, women decision-makers at companies considering an investment in technology are well aware of providers that lack diversity at the board and C-suite levels. You can bet that it does influence their thinking.

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For more information see:

Women Leaders in Technology: Are We There Yet? https://www.deep-analysis.net/report/women-in-technology/

Technology Careers: Advice From Women to Women at ASG Technologies Evolve Conference  https://www.deep-analysis.net/2019/10/technology-careers-advice-from-women-to-women-at-asg-technologies-evolve-conference/

[i] https://www.statista.com/chart/4467/female-employees-at-tech-companies/

[ii] “The Latest Stats on Women in Tech,” The Muse, https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-latest-stats-on-women-in-tech

[iii] For recent statistics on female employees in top high-tech companies, see Felix Richter, “The Tech World Is Still a Man’s World,” Statista, March 8, 2019, https://www.statista.com.


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