Studies show that having more female executives at the top of an organization leads to greater success and larger profits. Yet many remain "stuck in the middle" and find the tech industry particularly challenging to excel in, three of Silicon Valley's biggest advocates for women said during a panel in San Francisco on Tuesday night.
"I've been nervous about going to board meetings because there is an aggressive style there, and we see a lot of that in Silicon Valley," Minnie Ingersoll, former lead at Google Fiber and co-founder of used car marketplace start-up Shift, said during the event. "Marc Andreessen comes at you and says he needs an answer, or that something about your company is wrong."
Silicon Valley's culture is prone to rewarding "aggressive, think-on-your feet, answer-with-confidence" interactions, scaring many soft-spoken individuals away, but instead more tech firms should create environments that women want to be a part of, Ingersoll said. "Diversity strengthens companies."
According to a tech marketplace for women, theBoardlist, as of June 30 a mere 6.8 percent of private tech companies' and 10.2 percent of "unicorn" companies' board seats are filled by women. Seventy-nine percent of private tech companies have no women on their boards, the report found.
Singh Cassidy launched theBoardlist last July, with the goal of getting more qualified women on boards, and her index of the tech industry will be updated quarterly, she said. Cassidy's research on the gender gap adds to a growing dialogue that has been hanging around Silicon Valley for more than a decade, with plenty of data to show the lack of women in tech.
A study from McKinsey & Co. in March found only 37 percent of female respondents to hold entry-level positions in tech, and under-representation grows in more senior positions, with only a fraction of women advancing to the C-suite. According to the firm, women hold only 15 percent of tech's chief officer titles. Further, 38 percent of women in tech said their gender makes it difficult to advance, and 60 percent of respondents in the industry cite stress and pressure on the job, significantly more than in other industries, the report found. (The data surveyed 30,000 employees across nine industries in 2015.)