The history of technology has been dominated by men, and technology products have historically been focused on men. However, this is clearly changing and the social media wave we are now experiencing is largely driven by women - two of the largest technology companies in the world (HP and IBM) are led by women, and Dell has a massive investment in building up women as as both a resource and a market.
The world is changing and no one better demonstrates that than Genevieve Bell, Ph.D., Intel's ethnologist in residence. Dr. Bell has been actively driving the wave that is encompassing the industry and this week was inducted into the Hall of Fame for WITI (Women In Technology International) along with three others.
While they'll formally receive the award at the WITI Awards Ceremony in June, I thought it would be interesting to continue to challenge the obsolete view that technology is driven by and built for men. It really isn't, not anymore.
The Women in Technology Hall of Fame goes back to 1996 and back then there were 10 winners ranging from one of the first IBM VPs, to the woman who developed Kevlar for DuPont, to the secretary of the Air Force, to the dean of engineering for Cooper Union Engineering School. In 1997, the list got even larger and included the women who programmed one of the first large-scale computers (ENIAC), the manager for the Mars Exploration, pre-Yahoo Carol Bartz, the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a Nobel Laureate.
After 1997, the list dropped to about 3 to 5 a year and included the founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology, the CEO of Berlitz, the VP of Comcast, a NASA astronaut, CTO of Agilent, a dean of engineering at Duke University, an IBM GM, VP and CIO of IBM, chairman of iRobot, EVP and CTO of Motorola, CTO of IBM, VP of IBM, VP of Intel, Dr. Ruth (yes, THE Dr. Ruth), CTO of HP, VP of IBM and a CTO from Xerox.
It is interesting to note that IBM dominates these awards, suggesting it is the most aggressive at internally promoting women in technology. These titles also represent some of the most powerful in technology, ranging from CEOs to those who actually were instrumental in creating and managing the products that make the technology market as powerful as it is in the U.S. and the world.
This year, the field of winners, while short, is arguably one of the most impressive so far. It begins with Genevieve Bell, who has been driving Intel's look into the future for some time, fighting the tendency to forget that people have to use this stuff, and helping create a vastly better human machine relationship in technology.
It includes Jane Lubchenco, the under secretary of commerce for NOAA, and she is on the frontlines with regard to protecting our environment and protecting us against catastrophic weather events. IBM VP of Technology Joanne Martin is responsible for IBM's technology strategy and was the founding editor of MIT's Supercomputer Journal. And, finally, Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX, who is arguably the leader in privatized extra-terrestrial companies having successfully completed 40 launches and helped to generate $3 billion in space revenue.
Three of the four women are Ph.D.s and the only one who doesn't have a doctorate runs a space ship company.
What this continues to showcase is the increasingly important and critical roles women play in what has long been thought to be a man's industry. Women have already emerged as the major drivers in social networking, and now are increasingly leading the future in technology development and adoption. It may very well be a company led by a woman that truly makes space a profitable place to do business.
For my friend Genevieve Bell, though, this is a validation that technology not only can be made better by focusing on people, it can be made more interesting too. For what is more interesting than a company that chooses to study and build products for us as individuals rather than just throw technical crap over the wall and hope someone will eventually want to buy it? Bell is one of those precious hybrids who can speak to engineers and still understand people.
We need many more like her and my congratulations goes out to each of this year's winners. The awards are well deserved and with more people like them, our future will be in better hands.