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“How women show up and really drive their success in the workplace is important,” says Cisco’s Christie. “But there’s a huge role for employers to move the topic of gender diversity where it needs to be.”
She lays part of the blame on the paucity of women executives in technology on the relative immaturity of the sector. More established companies have strong development programs that have tried to foster the advancement of women, she says, while technology companies have generally focused on keeping up with their rapid growth.
Ellen Pao, a former partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers who is suing the firm for gender discrimination and retaliation in a case closely watched in Silicon Valley, believes individuals and companies should pay more attention to attitudes. “A lot of the stuff that happens seems to be very subsconcious or unintentional, but it happens,” she says.
Some women in technology say they are encouraged by changes they see at the upper echelons. “What I’m seeing on the ground is really a sense of momentum, and increasing momentum,” says Accel’s Ranzetta.
She points to companies like Hewlett Packard IBM , Xerox, and Yahoo, where Meg Whitman, Ginni Rometty, Ursula Burns and Marissa Meyer, respectively, are chief executives, as well as the growing numbers of female founders and executives she sees at start-up companies.
“Merissa Meyer and Sheryl both rose very quickly by first joining small entrepreneurial companies,” she says, referring to the boost both of them got by working at Google while it was still a private company.
But she sees an even speedier route to the top in technology. “If you want to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I would say go start a company,” Ranzetta says. “It’s the fastest way to the C-suite.”