Senior Technical Women: A Profile of Success

A growing body of research has documented the underrepresentation of women in technical positions in US companies. Women hold 24 percent of technology jobs, yet represent half the total workforce. This underrepresentation persists even though the demand for technical talent remains high: computer occupations are expected to grow by 32 percent between 2008 and 2018.

In 2008, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University conducted a survey of 1,795 technical men and women at seven high-technology companies in Silicon Valley. In this paper, we focus on senior technical women, who at only 4 percent of our sample represent a rarity in the technology industry.

Senior technical women are critical because they have broken down barriers to advancement and have persisted; their profile can provide companies and individuals with critical insights on the paths to success within existing organizational structures that can be leveraged to further advance greater numbers. Furthermore, these senior technical women are a part of the highest source of technical human capital for high-tech companies – they represent the most likely opportunity for advancement to executive-level positions, enabling the field to truly reap the benefits of diversity on innovation at the highest levels of decision-making.
We ask the following questions:
• What are the characteristics of these senior women?
• How do they perceive themselves on top attributes of success?
• Which organizational practices do they most care about? What can companies do to retain them?
• What do these findings tell us about advancing women in technology generally?