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Breaking the glass ceiling: 6 women in tech you should know

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With only 11 percent of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies held by women and fewer than one-in-five technology startups are female-led, working in the tech industry as a woman can often be isolating and disheartening. The National Center for Women and Information Technology estimates that women only held 25 percent of all professional computing jobs in 2015, despite making up 57 percent of the workforce. For women of color, that number is even lower, with only 5 percent of those women identifying as Asian, 3 percent as black, and 1 percent as Hispanic.

Women With Byte looks at the many contributions women have made to technology past and present, the hurdles they faced (and overcame), and the foundations for the future they’ve laid for the next generations.
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At companies like Twitter, only 15 percent of its tech jobs are held by women, while women made up more than 50 percent of non-technical jobs (human resources, marketing, etc.). Fewer women pursuing degrees in computer science does not bode well for the industry either, which is often seen as unwelcoming and hostile toward its female employees. But despite the fact the industry landscape is less than ideal for women, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some badass ladies out there making their mark.

Here are just a few of the top women in tech you should be aware of.

Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP of Retail, Apple

Angela Ahrendts is an American businesswoman and senior vice president of Retail at Apple. Before joining Apple’s executive team in 2014 — where she remains the company’s sole female senior executive — Ahrendts was the CEO of Burberry, a luxury fashion house based in London. Prior to that, she was the executive vice president at Liz Claiborne. With more than three decades of experience in the fashion industry, Ahrendts is not only revolutionizing Apple’s products by making them more fashionable, but also more profitable. She ranked 15 on Forbes’ 2016 list of the world’s most powerful women in tech, and earned more $70 million in 2014, making her the highest-paid Apple executive.


Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

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Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of the Lean In Foundation, has been named the most powerful women in tech by Forbes six years in a row. She is also the author of the 2013 bestseller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which is about women in business leadership. She is the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board of directors, and before joining Facebook, she was the VP of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and the chief of staff for United States Secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers, during the Clinton administration. She has been involved in a variety of campaigns to encourage women to pursue roles in leadership, too. In a recent interview, Sandberg says she “will not rest” until women run half the world’s countries and corporations.


Liu Qing, President, Didi Chuxing

Liu Qing, also know as Jean Liu, is a Chinese business executive and the president of Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ride-sharing company. A graduate of Harvard University, Liu was instrumental in the end of a years-long battle with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for the future of ride-sharing in China. The two companies eventually reached an agreement where Uber took a partial stock in Didi and ultimately backed out of China. Liu has been named among some of the most influential people in the world and has spoken out about creating a better work-family balance for women. She also helped start the Didi Women’s Network to help women with families succeed in tech, which she believes “opens a new phase of enhanced motivation and broadened thinking.”

Kimberly Bryant, Founder, Black Girls Code

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Electrical engineer and founder of Black Girls Code, Kimberly Bryant wants to see more women of color in the tech industry. With more than 20 years of experience in biotech and a degree in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University, Bryant founded the non-profit in 2011 with the goal of teaching young black girls the skills needed to code, program computers, and build websites and robots. Black Girls Code hopes to teach one million girls by 2040, which will in turn help fill the expected 1.4 million job openings in computing in 2020. Unsurprisingly, Bryant has even been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion.


Erica Baker, Senior Engineering Manager, Patreon

Erica Baker is an engineer from San Francisco who has worked with many well-known tech companies, including Google, Slack, and most recently, Patreon. She has been an advocate for diversity and inclusion in technology for many years. In 2015, after leaving Google for Slack, Baker revealed that she started an internal spreadsheet at Google for employees to disclose their salaries, which Baker said led to several colleagues being able to negotiate pay raises. She is also one of the founding members of Project Include, a non-profit organization that offers assessments to tech companies and address a lack of diversity. Currently, Baker is the senior engineering managing at Patreon and has written about the difficulties of being a woman of color in the workplace.


Gwynne Shotwell, President/COO, SpaceX

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President and chief operating officer of SpaceX — the aerospace manufacturer best known for recently shooting a Tesla into space — Gwynne Shotwell handles the daily operations of Elon Musk’s closely watched company. Shotwell is a graduate of Northwestern University with degrees in both mechanical engineering and applied mathematics. She originally intended to work in the automotive industry and enrolled in Chrysler’s management training program, but did not remain in that industry. She joined SpaceX in 2002, the same year the company was founded. She was hired as the vice president of Business Development and worked her way up to her current role as president.

Brie Barbee
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Brie is a writer from Portland, Oregon. She received a bachelor's degree from Portland State University in 2016, where she…
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