This past weekend I worked on my cultural literacy by reading Sheryl Sandberg’s manifesto, Lean In. It was recommended to me by a scientist who has conducted high-quality research throughout her career in a male-dominated field. This weekend I also saw the movie Jobs, about Steve Jobs and the tumultuous times of Apple (it’s hard to believe this was ever the case) before the company began cranking out hit after hit of gadgetry (recently the new iPhone 5C and 5S). Perhaps it was my residual rumination from Lean In, but I could not help but notice the lack of women in the movie. A sign of the times though it was, I wondered what the movie would look like had it continued past the moment of Jobs’s return in 1996. Would there be more women in the company besides secretaries? What does Apple look like today for women? What about other tech giants?
A quick search on company management sites yields the following results. According to its website, Facebook is run by four people, one being Sandberg herself. (Business Insider published a more extensive list of Facebook’s senior employees in 2011.) Currently, 27.7% of senior positions at Facebook are held by women. Microsoft has four women in senior leadership positions, making up 28.6% of the senior management team. Virginia Rometty has been CEO of IBM since 2011 (IBM’s first female CEO). Women account for 26.2% of IBM executives. Another famous female CEO of a tech company is Marissa Mayer, who calls the shots at Yahoo; 27.3% of the senior management at Yahoo is female. Google, Sandberg’s old home, has one woman in a senior position among twelve men. That works out to 7.7%.
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, on her hopes for more girls in tech.
And to answer the question that started it all, Apple has no women in senior positions. Zip. Zilch. Zero.
There is no denying the simple and compelling point that Sandberg makes: Women are 50% of the population, but are not proportionally represented in leadership roles. In Tech, that representation seems to be about 25% at first glance (though the numbers I’ve seen average more around 13.7%). This low number is due to Apple’s (negative) contribution to the equation. If we took Apple out of the calculation, the average climbs to 23.5%.
While I’m not a huge fan of the content of Lean In (it’s not exactly revelatory), I am a huge fan of its existence. The fact that Sandberg is herself leaning in, using her influence to address gender discrimination, speaks louder than the words in her book could. I’ll be looking out for the movie version.