17/06/2024 12:44 AM


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What Sheryl Sandberg’s exit reveals about women’s progress in tech


When Sheryl Sandberg claimed last week that she was resigning as main functioning officer of Meta, she also reflected on her legacy as a female in tech.

“I’m in particular very pleased that this is a enterprise wherever a lot of, a lot of extraordinary women of all ages and men and women from assorted backgrounds have risen as a result of our ranks and become leaders — equally in our enterprise and in leadership roles in other places,” she wrote in an announcement posted on her Facebook and Instagram internet pages.

Yet even as Sandberg lauded the progress of women of all ages at Meta, the broader fact for female leaders at the top rated of the tech industry has been much much more disappointing. And with her exit this fall, Silicon Valley is getting rid of a single of its most seen and outspoken feminine executives, leaving couple of — some would say zero — identical peers in her wake.

Sandberg, 52, was section of a cohort of ladies at important tech businesses who produced keynote speeches, rose to the level of founders like Larry Web page and Mark Zuckerberg, and experienced a seat at the table at significant-driven business enterprise gatherings like the Allen & Co. conference in Sunshine Valley, Idaho. But over the years, lots of of these ladies — such as Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard Company and Ginni Rometty of IBM — have departed, generally with their reputations in tatters.

More broadly, females have not produced noteworthy gains in current decades in the highest echelons of Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Meta and other tech giants where the corridors of electric power continue on to be dominated by males. The industry’s report on feminine leadership trails that of other industries, even as tech exerts a lot more affect in the world overall economy and in people’s life.

“The CEO is the confront of the business,” and in the tech field, “somehow collectively the entire world looks to want the face to be a white person,” explained Jenny Lefcourt, a founder of All Elevate, a nonprofit centered on advancing gender and racial equality, and an trader at Freestyle Money.

At Silicon Valley’s top 150 companies by profits, 4.8% were being led by females at the end of 2020, unchanged from 2018, in accordance to a report by the law organization Fenwick & West. In distinction, the proportion of feminine CEOs of corporations in the S&P 500 index rose to 6% at the conclude of 2020 from 4.8% in 2018.

Some gals in positions of electricity at publicly traded tech businesses, this sort of as Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s standard counsel, have come to be targets of harassment. Other people, these types of as Françoise Brougher, the previous main running officer of Pinterest, have sued for discrimination. And in modern years, woman tech leaders have typically appeared to be employed to thoroughly clean up an individual else’s mess, main to the time period “glass cliff,” a engage in on “glass ceiling” and a reference to the high hazards of the roles.

Some women now in cost of general public tech firms incorporate Safra Catz of Oracle, Lisa Su of Innovative Micro Equipment and Sarah Friar of Nextdoor, nevertheless they have tended to be extra private than Sandberg.

Alphabet, which owns Google, and Microsoft also have ladies in their executive suites, these kinds of as their main economic officers (Ruth Porat at Alphabet, Amy Hood at Microsoft), and those heading up organization models, such as Susan Wojcicki at YouTube. A era of tech startups are also led by girls, this kind of as Melanie Perkins at design program maker Canva and Fidji Simo at delivery business Instacart.

But girls continue to face obstacles in practically each facet of the tech ecosystem. Annual variety experiences posted by Amazon, Google and Apple clearly show incremental gains for ladies in management. Undertaking funds firms keep on being dominated by adult men, whilst female founders garner a little portion of funding. Tales about poisonous workplaces, discrimination and harassment go on reverberating through Silicon Valley.

“If we continue to be at this latest price of progress, it will take way outside of our lifetimes to get to parity,” Lefcourt said. “We will need exponential modify from in this article.”

In the online era, some girls were tapped to direct, such as Carol Bartz, the previous Autodesk CEO who grew to become Yahoo’s CEO in 2009. Other girls joined startups like Google, which before long ballooned. When Sandberg left her work as a Google vice president for Fb in 2008, she assisted build a new archetype of an experienced female govt who was aiding to professionalize startups launched by adult males. (Facebook was renamed Meta past yr.)

“It was not that she was just a COO, Mark made positive she was really elevated in stature,” mentioned Emilie Choi, the chief running officer of Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, referring to Sandberg and Zuckerberg, the founder of Fb. Choi explained she and other gals in tech utilized Sandberg’s template to work alongside tech founders.

In 2013, Sandberg released her bestselling company manifesto, “Lean In,” which encouraged gals to get options and to a lot more aggressively search for promotions and raises.

The issues that girls faced in tech have been highlighted by Ellen Pao, a venture money investor who sued her employer, Kleiner Perkins, for discrimination in 2012. She dropped the circumstance in 2015, but the higher-profile trial confirmed the ills of Silicon Valley’s boys club. Pao has given that established Venture Incorporate, a nonprofit concentrated on diversity and inclusion.

Pao explained that whilst a lot more folks now believe girls and other people when they speak up about discrimination and harassment, tech corporations haven’t performed substantially to increase their workplaces.

“We really do not get numerous metrics on range and inclusion, and the ones that are shared demonstrate little development, specially at the govt levels,” she mentioned.

In the aftermath of her demo, tech corporations began releasing once-a-year variety studies outlining the gender and racial disparities in their workforces. Enterprise capital firms, a lot of of them with only male associates, added females to their partnerships.

At public tech providers, more females were named to government employment. Ursula Burns was elevated to Xerox’s CEO in 2009. Mayer turned Yahoo’s CEO in 2012 immediately after a extensive profession at Google, when Rometty was named IBM’s CEO that identical yr. In 2014, Catz grew to become co-CEO at Oracle. Microsoft appointed Hood chief financial officer in 2013, while Google employed Porat as chief money officer in 2015.

But quite a few of them encountered troubles steering aging tech corporations. Of those gals, only Catz, Hood and Porat keep on being in their roles.

“The snail’s rate of development for women of all ages leaders in Silicon Valley is worse than disappointing,” claimed Nicole Wong, a deputy main know-how officer for the Obama administration and a former Twitter government. “It helps make the commitments that tech leaders made all over racial and gender diversity in 2014 glimpse performative.”

In 2017, stories of sexual harassment by effective adult males in Silicon Valley grew to become component of the #MeToo movement. That year, a team of female investors made All Increase.

In 2018, California handed a legislation necessitating publicly traded corporations to have at least 1 female board director, major to scores of women of all ages joining corporate boards. (A California judge struck down the legislation last month the point out has stated it will enchantment the ruling.) An additional new regulation, handed very last calendar year, the Silenced No Much more Act, delivers legal safety for people who speak publicly about discrimination or harassment they professional at function.

Gals in tech have continued talking out about unfair cure. In 2020, Brougher achieved a $22.5 million settlement with Pinterest for discrimination and retaliation. A discrimination lawsuit by Emily Kramer, a former main advertising and marketing officer at the monetary startup Carta, is doing work its way through the courts.

There have been some indications of progress. About the previous five several years, Katrina Lake of Sew Deal with, Julie Wainwright of The RealReal, Jennifer Hyman of Rent the Runway and Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble took the firms they started public. And pursuing in Sandberg’s footsteps, female chief functioning officers are now extra popular in tech. They consist of Choi at Coinbase, Gwynne Shotwell at SpaceX and Jen Wong at Reddit.

At Meta, Sandberg hired and promoted women of all ages, these as Marne Levine, the main enterprise officer, and Lori Goler, the head of human resources and choosing. The percentage of girls in Meta’s administration with titles of director or bigger enhanced to 35% in 2021, from 30% in 2018, according to the company’s knowledge.

Meta also developed females who now lead other tech corporations, together with Simo, who oversaw the key Fb app before getting to be Instacart’s CEO very last yr.

“Sheryl’s leadership has genuinely mattered to a large amount of us,” mentioned Kate Rouch, the main internet marketing officer of Coinbase who was an personnel at Meta till August.

But when Sandberg leaves her career in the following number of months, Javier Olivan, a longtime Meta executive, will get in excess of the job of chief operating officer. Olivan will be 1 of 4 top rated deputies to Zuckerberg centered on technological innovation and policy — and all of them are adult males.


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