Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Women struggling to land top jobs in Silicon Valley

It seems there is still a big gap between the employability of women and men. This news article tells us how women are not yet accepted as co-equal with men in terms of
getting the juicy positions from top corporations. What's wrong?

Women struggling to land top jobs in Silicon Valley

Excerpt of the news:

SAN FRANCISCO -- Silicon Valley may be leading the way in the technology sector, but the IT hub is still lagging behind when it comes to the battle of the sexes, a recent study has shown.

Women account for only 6.5 percent of board members on Silicon Valley firms, and of that figure only 8.8 percent occupy top positions within the companies, the University of California, Davis study found.

The survey, which involved around 400 firms with an annual turnover of $100 million or higher, also reveals that only 10.2 percent of women have positions of responsibility within the companies.

Of the 400 companies taking part, 103 are based in Silicon Valley. The study showed that high technology firms' success in promoting women lags behind averages for the rest of the California business sector.

The number of female board members came in at 6.5 percent for companies in the survey against 8.8 percent for California as a whole; while women directors are 8.8 percent against 11.7 percent.

Those figures lag behind national averages, where 14.3 percent of board members are women, who also occupy 15.7 percent of top jobs, according to two surveys carried out in 2005 by Catalyst.

Several prominent Silicon Valley firms have bucked the trend, with computer giant Hewlett Packard and software manufacturer Hyperion each having around 31 percent women in leading positions. Nineteen percent of board members of Internet sales site eBay are female, meanwhile, and the company has been led with success by a woman, Meg Whitman, since 1998.

"The top industries that are represented in Silicon Valley tend to be more focused on the high tech industry, such as semiconductors, electronics, communications, and our data have showed that these industries have much fewer women as board members and executives," said the study's author Katrina Ellis.

Chris Melching, president of a women's business association, attributes the shortfall to a reluctance to change.

"If you look at the habit and the pattern of always looking for men, they look at what's familiar," Ellis said. "It's much easier to call people you already know than to go, 'I'll have someone completely opposite of what I have looked at'. It's harder to do and it takes a lot more time."

Melching added that women offered formidable leadership skills to businesses. "Women bring strong communications skills, we are very intuitive, we have excellent negotiation skills, we like to collaborate intuitively, we multi-task".

A 2004 study by Catalyst appears to support Melching's views, indicating that an increase in female representation in senior positions often led to improved financial results.

That view was endorsed by Godfrey Sullivan, the head of Hyperion.