listen to this article:
It’s an interesting time in the world today. We were plagued by many distractions over the past year; COVID-19, a shifting political climate, and a long-awaited demand for equitable sociocultural enhancements. Now, my statement does not mean that I see these things as true distractions; I understand their importance and am a firm believer in the impact they have on our world. It takes more than an opinion to drive a movement or shift the conversation, but it is also important to look back and talk about the positive outcomes that have occurred over the past year.
I am the daughter of a strong, educated woman who came to the United States seeking a better life for herself and her family. Unlike her mother, who did not have the same opportunities, she sought refuge in knowing that with a strong mind, strong will and strong education, anything is possible. I am grateful that she instilled those same values in me that have enabled me to climb the corporate ranks while being a good mother and mentor to other young women who do not simply want to be validated for their achievements but honored for their continued success. When I first entered the high-tech space — before email was the norm — the only clouds we knew of where those found in the sky, the quickest way to transmit information was via fax, and it was very much a male-dominated tech world. It was unheard-of to have a woman CEO (unless you were selling Mary Kay or jewelry) and most meetings did not include women executives around the board room table. At the time, I did not acknowledge or even see this as an issue; I was more focused on proving that my youth was not a handicap and felt the need to constantly prove that age was only a number. Now, a few decades in, I see some progress. Not enough — but progress, nonetheless.
In an article published by CNN this past May titled, Female Fortune 500 CEOs reach an all-time high, but it’s still a small percentage, they call out that there were 37 women CEOs named to the Fortune 500 list, comprising only 7.4% of the total — but still 4 more than in 2019 and 13 more than in 2018. This is progress, right? It’s difficult to read 37 out of 500 and consider that progress. Women first appeared as CEOs on the Fortune list in 1972. Now, five decades later, we celebrate minor milestones like this and others, like the December 2, 2020 research released which states that 6% of the S&P 500 CEOs are women. Women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men since 1982, more master’s degrees than men since 1987, and more doctorate degrees than men since 2006. However, more degrees do not equate to more responsibility, visibility — or even more importantly, more money. Today, women in the United States earn approximately 82 cents for every one dollar a man earns. This means that a woman could stand to lose $407,760 over a 40-year career compared to her male counterpart. The wage gap needs to close. Are these encouraging stats for our daughters, sisters and new young women coming into the workforce? What I will say is that although their journey to becoming a CEO may be difficult, where there is a will, there is a way – and with drive anything and all is attainable.
Now in celebration of International Woman’s Day, let’s highlight some innovators of the past, the raiders of today, and close with my own personal story of progress, perspective, and growth.
Edith Clarke became the first professionally employed female electrical engineer in the United States in 1922, where she worked as what was then called a “computer,” someone who performed difficult mathematical calculations before modern-day computers and calculators were invented. Clarke struggled to find work as a female engineer for years and was frequently offered the ‘usual’ jobs allowed for women of her time, but she went on to pave the way for women in STEM and engineering and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.
Katherine Johnson, an African American space scientist and mathematician, a leading figure in American space history and has made enormous contributions to America’s aeronautics and space programs by her incorporation of computing tools. Johnson played a huge role in calculating key trajectories in the Space Race — calculating the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, as well as for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.
Even though she thought she always felt like she didn’t fit in, Maria Klawe pursued her passion for technology and became a renowned computer scientist. Klawe is now the first female president of Harvey Mudd College and works hard to ignite passion about STEM fields amongst diverse groups. During her tenure at Harvey Mudd College, her work has helped support the Computer Science faculty’s ability to innovate and has raised the percentage of women majoring in computer science from less than 15 percent to more than 40 percent today.
The magnificent six ENIAC Programmers who took part of a secret World War II project and programmed the first all-electronic programmable computer. When the project was eventually introduced to the public in 1946, the women were never introduced or credited for their hard work — both because computer science was not well understood as an emerging field, and because the public’s focus was on the machine itself. Since then, the ENIAC Programmers Project has worked hard to preserve and tell the stories of these six women.
A girl from my home state of New Jersey, Elizebeth S. Friedman, was many things, wife, mother, writer – but foremost a pioneer in U.S. cryptology. This fascinating woman was recruited in 1916, by George Fabyan, a millionaire businessman with a 500-acre “think tank“ (research facility) he called Riverbank. Riverbank was one of the first facilities in the U.S. to promote cryptology research and both Elizebeth (and her equally famous cryptologist husband William) conducted much of her ground-breaking research there. Mrs. Friedman’s employment as a cryptanalyst for the U.S. Navy followed in 1923, which led to her subsequent positions with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Prohibition and Bureau of Customs. The net result of her career is quite significant and embraces the advancement of cryptology and her research continues to be used today.
New York Times bestselling author, and daughter of refugees Reshma Saujani graduated from Harvard University and Yale Law School, to not just become the first Indian American woman to run for congress in 2010 – but also the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. A non-profit foundation that we as a company donate too, that aims to increase the number of women in the computer science field.
And, as a naturalized American Citizenship, how do I not celebrate one of the most amazing trailblazers of today. Kamala Harris, graduate of Howard University, University of California, and the Hastings College of Law – who on January 20, 2021 was sworn in as the first female Vice President of the United States of America. Her own mother told her as a child, “My mother would look at me and she’d say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.”
As the vice president of our global marketing practice, I am extremely proud to report that more than 80% of my team is female — and not because it was my platform to hire more women, but because they were simply the best equipped for their role. Moreover, I am even happier to report that our executive team consists of 3 women and 7 men – the most I have seen in my 2+ decades on an executive team. Just recently, after introducing our leadership team to the WIT Network, a global and local Not For Profit organization providing inspiration, education, mentoring, networking, and practical advice to empower women to build and grow their careers in technology and pursue their ambitions, we put budget aside in support and honored 15 women on staff as members.
Unbound is for sure a women in tech anomaly, with leadership that promotes best practices in hiring for equality. There so many other women I didn’t mention both in and out of tech that would have taken this from blog post to novel, but we are forever grateful that you have moved mountains to enable us all to be here. So, to that end, my daughter, and tech sisters alike have my steadfast commitment that I will continue to celebrate our entrepreneurial spirit, inherent ability to lead, and continued efforts to use our voice in support of gender equality.
Funny enough, when I asked my CEO to review this blog, both because I value his opinion and because I wanted to make sure he approved of my “girl power” tirade, his response to me is exactly why I chose to join Unbound. He first pointed out that I missed a few really remarkable women (one of which I’ve since added; Elizebeth Friedman). He followed with, “Although the women to men ratio in management may be ok, I believe it’s still not optimal. I do agree that it’s better than most, and that’s also something. But as CEO I still aspire to do better across the company and strive to improve on the industry average.”
Happy International Women’s Day, Tech Sisters! Onwards and upwards.