Though it won’t be news to anyone who has worked in Silicon Valley, a new study confirms that tech companies are woefully behind in including women among their board members and highest-paid executives — not to mention the engineering ranks.
Of California’s 400 biggest public companies, technology companies have some of the lowest percentages of women directors and executives, according to the annual Study of California Women Business Leaders by the University of California, Davis, and Watermark, a Bay Area organization that tries to increase the number of women business leaders.
“This is a place where technology companies are way behind,” said Marilyn Nagel, chief executive of Watermark.
The software and semiconductor sectors have the lowest percentages of women among the five highest-paid executives in a company, with 4.4 percent and 2.7 percent, according to the study. On average, fewer than one in 28 of the highest-paid tech executives is a woman.
Only 5.2 percent of directors in the semiconductor sector are women and just 7.7 percent have more than one woman director, compared with 40 percent of companies in all other industries. Just over 9 percent of directors in the software sector are women.
There are a few notable exceptions. Advent Software is the No. 2 company on the study’s list of the top California companies in terms of women leaders. Thirty-six percent of its executives and directors are women, including the chief executive, Stephanie DiMarco. Hewlett-Packard is No. 6, with 35 percent women executives, including the chief executive, Meg Whitman. Yahoo is the only other tech company in the top 25, with 27 percent women leaders, though its chief executive, Carol Bartz, recently left.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen tech companies land on the study’s list of big public companies with no women directors, including Adobe Systems, Demand Media, LeapFrog, Nvidia and National Semiconductor. The same is true for top executives. Tech companies with none that are women include Apple, Electronic Arts, Intuit, Qualcomm and Tesla Motors.
Part of the problem, Ms. Nagel said, is that tech companies often look for board members who have been chief executives of other tech companies, and just 3 percent of tech chief executives are women. Instead, they should broaden their search to look for women in other senior positions at tech companies or chief executives in other sectors, she said.
And because tech companies tend to be global, they focus more on racial diversity than gender diversity, she said. As a result, there are fewer programs in place to encourage women to join or rise in tech companies. Tech companies also struggle to recruit female engineers even at the lowest levels, in part because girls do not commonly pursue computer science in school.
“Tech companies don’t always focus on building the pipeline of women, and so there are not women who are moving up as rapidly,” Ms. Nagel said. “There are not programs in place to ensure that women take a seat at the table in the uppermost echelons of business.”
Bill Campbell, chairman of Intuit and a coach to many tech companies, said in a statement that gender diversity at the company helps it attract more talented people.
“Simply put, we consider gender diversity at top levels a necessity for hiring and keeping great talent,” he said. Still, Intuit has no women among the top five highest-paid women executives, according to the study.
Casting a wider net, the study also looked at California companies in the Fortune 1000. Among those, Hewlett-Packard has four women directors and Intel has three, including its chairwoman, Jane Shaw. Cisco, Google and Oracle have two each and Apple has one.
The numbers are worse for the highest-paid executives. Hewlett-Packard has two women on that list, while Google and Oracle have just one and Apple, Intel and Cisco have none.
It is not just tech companies in California that fail to hire enough women leaders, the study said. At California’s biggest public companies, only about 10 percent of the board members and top executives are women, a level that has not changed much in the seven years that UC Davis has done the study. That is even though gender-diverse boards show a 53 percent higher return on equity, the study found.
By Claire Cain Miller
December 9, 2011