Two decades ago in electrical engineering major’s classrooms in college it was rare to see very many women in all but the top tier universities. This gender percentage difference was sometimes used to describe the disparity in the number of women executives in the high tech hardware sector as many firms like Intel chose to hire from within and typically hire engineers into top management spots.
But just as men like Lou Gerstner came from a potato chip company to successfully run IBM for a number of years, technology companies started to hire women into C-level positions with great results.
One of the highest profile hires of the past decade was when Carly Fiorina was hired as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She immediately broke down the Intel – Microsoft – Dell troika that was already planning a three horse race for the future by acquiring Compaq and eventually moving Hewlett-Packard into the number one spot in worldwide personal computer sales.
Meg Whitman is the current CEO at Hewlett-Packard and has managed to turn a company the size of a cruise ship in a very short amount of space and time into a behemoth that is well-positioned for the future.
Virginia Rometty is now CEO of IBM, becoming a trailblazer in the executive suite for one of the world’s oldest computer companies.
Marissa Meyer is the current CEO of Yahoo, Inc. and she is credited for stabilizing a shrinking giant in the short time that she has been there.
Although most large companies still do not have a woman running the show, the numbers for the women that do are stellar. In 2009, which was one of the most recent years polled, large businesses run by women outperformed businesses run by men by almost 30 percent, making women an excellent investment in the CEO’s chair.
For many women that seek to be executives it is a critical time. The women that are in positions of power in technology are performing extremely well. But because there are so few of them, when one stumbles, it can become a larger noise in the market that can affect many potential women leaders. Despite the pressure, it appears that women are poised to make major inroads into the percentage gap in the executive board room over the next decade.