The Real Reason Why A Woman Doesn't Run Facebook?

women technology jobs FacebookBy Marcus Wholsen


SAN FRANCISCO -- Silicon Valley companies portray themselves as inventors of the future, but they're afflicted by a longstanding problem.

From board rooms to "brogrammers," men still dominate many corners of the tech industry, where the pantheon of famous founders -- from Hewlett and Packard to Jobs to Zuckerberg -- is still a boys' bastion. The gender-imbalance issue came to the forefront again recently when a partner at the country's most prominent venture capital firm filed a sexual harassment lawsuit alleging a former colleague retaliated against her for years after she cut off a brief relationship with him. The firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has denied the allegations.

Whatever the merits of the claim, the suit again has put a spotlight on the tech industry's gender gap.

To Jocelyn Goldfein, a director of engineering at Facebook, the math is stark.

Less than 20 percent of the bachelor's degrees in computer science go to women, according to federal statistics. By comparison, nearly 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees are awarded to graduating females.

The company wants to hire top engineers, but the talent pool in the U.S. is growing thin, she said. Goldfein said she doesn't look to hire female engineers specifically, just the best people. But she said she'd have a lot more to choose from if women entered computer science at a rate anywhere near the average for all fields.

She blames the lack of role models both in popular culture and in day-to-day life as a key reason for the disparity.

"The reason there aren't more women computer scientists is because there aren't more women computer scientists," she said.

Women in other professions such as medicine and law have become fixtures on television and in movies in recent decades, while portrayals of programmers still tend to follow the hacker stereotype of the lone guy sitting in his basement, she said.

Unless their parents are engineers, girls also aren't likely to encounter coders in their own lives the same way they would, for example, a doctor or a teacher.

"We don't really have that same kind of interaction with software engineers as we go about our daily lives," Goldfein said.

Facebook itself has come under criticism over the lack of diversity on its board of directors, which is composed of seven white men, though the majority of its users are women. At the same time, the company's chief operating officer, former U.S. Treasury Department official Sheryl Sandberg, has become the most prominent female executive in Silicon Valley.

Goldfein said women engineers are also behind many of Facebook's signature features, including the news feed and the photo viewer. She hopes the site itself can serve as a tool to draw more girls and young women into computer science.

"If they realize that when I click on a photo and it pops up, that was made by a woman, think how powerful that would be," Goldfein said.

At gatherings across Silicon Valley, especially those where engineers cluster, lines extend far out the men's room door, while the ladies' room has little wait.

"Sometimes it can be hard," said Serena Yeung, 23, a recent Stanford graduate who worked as a software engineer at a Silicon Valley startup before returning for graduate school. Just walking into the classroom is one of the biggest hurdles for women thinking of entering the field, she said. "You go in and you're the only girl in it."

For Yeung, having parents who were both engineers spared her the sense that computers weren't for girls.

She got her first job as a programmer at Mountain View-based Rockmelt Inc., which makes a Web browser with built-in social media features. She started working there even before she graduated with her degree in electrical engineering, another coding-intensive field where men heavily outnumber women.

Rockmelt CEO Eric Vishria says the competition to hire qualified women software engineers has heated up as companies see that they need diverse perspectives to build products that attract the widest audience. He said startups that don't hire women early in their existence risk creating a male-dominated culture that will put off potential female hires.

"It becomes a death spiral, it becomes self-fulfilling," Vishria said. "You have 15 guys in a room, that's your company, and it becomes harder and harder to hire your first woman."

Yeung said a recent experience at a Stanford Society of Women Engineers event for elementary school students showed her that intervention needs to come early to steer girls toward tech. She said girls who had just come from a computer science workshop complained they didn't like it because the boys asked all the questions.

Steeped in video game culture and barraged by positive male tech industry role models, boys tend to dominate conversations around computing early on, leaving girls feeling shut out, said Yeung.

As for her own childhood, Yeung said that as she got older, her commitment to computing carried a social cost as female friends drifted toward other interests.

"It's harder to spend time with them. It's harder to do things with them," she said. "I think you feel kind of a conflicting pull between friends and career interests. That can be hard."


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Heather

a woman doesn't run facebook b/c a woman didn't ******* invent facebook.

this article is lame

i'm a woman and all for equal rights, but we're plenty capable of starting our own companies and many women have...

June 04 2012 at 10:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Heather's comment
Mark

Heather. Your comment is the greatest example of a common sense, spot on, hit the nail on the head one I have ever seen.

June 04 2012 at 11:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gilbert

History of the world.

Man builds a fire, Women demand to get warmed by it.
Man builds a house, Women demand to live in it.
Man builds an automobile. Women demand to drive it.
Man builds a airplane. Women demand to fly it.
Man builds a space shuttle. Women demand to fly it.
Man builds a company, Women demand to run it.

Nothing has changed since the beginning of time.

June 04 2012 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gilbert

ANOTHER GARBAGE STORY! Why don't women START THEIR OWN COMPANIES? They always start trying to BUTT IN on companies after a bunch of men have spent years building them into a success.

They can't be bother being part of the start or growing of the company only when it is successful and profitable THEN they start whining about not being included and BANGING ON THE DOOR to be let in.

Facebook was started in a college dorm. WHY CAN;T WOMEN DO THE SAME THING?
HP and Microsoft were started in the family garage. WHY CAN'T WOMEN DO THAT?

What is stopping them from doing that? NOTHING, but themselves. They are only interested in piggybacking on the success of MEN!

June 04 2012 at 7:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
robthebl0gger7

I'm getting sick of this "equality" bulls* like we can't function properly unless every possible gender or ethnicity is represented with the same number of people.

June 04 2012 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
redmondconstruct

Facebooks board of directors are 7 white men. Who started the company? There is nothing stopping 7 black women from creating something to topple Facebook except TALENT.
While the "cool guys" were out playing basketball, these 7 "nerds" were playing on their computers

June 04 2012 at 7:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Trajan Saldana

because a woman didn't create any of the companies mentioned in the article...Next

June 04 2012 at 6:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Scott

I love you Sandy!!!!!!

June 04 2012 at 6:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
krondool

Men and women aren't equal in ALL things...so what? That being said, if you want to be there, work for it. Yeah, only 20% of graduating women are IT people. Also, a majority of Math teachers are male, a majority of elementary teachers are female. You can't ignore statistics, no matter how much you don't agree with it. Yes, I've known women that were intrinsically good at math, and women that could lift more then me. But statistically, I've known a LOT more men that can do intrinsic math, and a LOT more men that can lift more then me. Conversely, for social arts, empathy and working with children, I know one or two guys that are good at it, and a LOT of women that are very good at it. If you want to break into an industry that's dominated by another social group...be thankful you live in America, and work for it, or heck, be lazy, become a writer and moan about it.

June 04 2012 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sandy

This whole "gender balance" thing is ridiculous. A man invented Facebook..period. A man invented Microsoft..period. A woman invented Mrs. Fields cookies...period. Why do Liberals have to insist on putting people who are unqualified, unwanted, or otherwise are not as capable as the head of some company to work for that company in a high position just because of their gender or color or whatever?

If a woman wants to head up a company, then she should work as hard as a man or have an idea that is successful and then she can head her own company.

All this politically correct BS is destroying our economy, bringing down the success of companies...and forcing companies to hire people based on gender and color rather than ability.

Liberal women are either really stupid or brainwashed or just immoral whining fools. I have never met a Libera woman who had any real sense. They just spew the liberal mantra which is basically, I want something for nothing.

LIBERALS: You have had over 50 years that you have dumbed down our kids in school, forced your homosexual beliefs on all of us, insisted that people pay more taxes so you can take more from hard working people, insisted on tragic late term abortions, insisted that you be hired in a position of authority when you are completely unqualified.

I am so sick of Liberals and their twisted, foul, perverted, ignorant positions. Time to vote these fools out of office, off local boards, out of our schools, and get back to all the things that made America great, because after these clowns have had their way...our country is devastated.

June 04 2012 at 5:48 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sandy's comment
krondool

I'm really tired of the liberal conservative stereotyping also. I tend to be strongly liberal leaning in many things, and I agree with you completely on this topic. If you want it, work for it..if you just want to sit around and type on your computer, write meaningful articles, rather then whining about something you could have accomplished if you'd set your mind to it.

June 04 2012 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
homeimps

In the mid 70's I applied for a State government job as what was then called a Computer Operator and after filling out the application, I wasn't even granted an interview. About a year later, equal-opportunity legislation had been passed; I applied for the same job and was hired along with 4 other women on a total staff of around 50 people. By the time I left in 1985, about half the staff of now some 75 was female. That being said, it's ludicrous for me to read that CEO Vishria states "You have 15 guys ... it becomes harder and harder to hire your first woman". Either we still have insufficient legislation in place, or -- as I suspect -- the Good Ol' Boys Network is still firmly in place. Companies have no control over how few women get into certain fields but they have absolutely no excuse for not hiring the ones who do. Period.

June 04 2012 at 5:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to homeimps's comment
Russ

You should qualify that by stating they should hire the ones that are qualified and better than the other candidates - not purely because they're a woman who happens to have studied in that particular field. Otherwise, you're just fulfilling a quota which doesn't neccessarily get you the best candidate and tends to lower the overall quality of workers. Equal opportunity legislation isn't equal opportunity employment... it's legalized discrimination against the majority, and I can personally vouch for that.

June 04 2012 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
redmondconstruct

The state government job that you applied for did not need to operate at maximum efficiency. They did not need to make a profit, and if they operated at a loss, they would get more money.
Many government jobs are used as Affirmative Action, which means giving preferential treatment to those unable to compete on a level playing field.
Once upon a time, there was no Facebook, and 300 million Americans. Each of those Americans had an equal opoptunity to create a social network. One group was more successful than the others, not because obamma gave them money, but because they were better.

June 04 2012 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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