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When visiting Facebook and Google headquarters, I noticed a lot of women employees, even though Silicon Valley has traditionally been male dominated. At Google and Facebook, you see women in technical roles and management roles, not just clerical roles. There is nothing wrong with clerical roles, but it is good to see women contributing more broadly throughout their organizations.

From my personal experience, the work environments where women were broadly represented in the organization were more productive, more collaborative, more civil, and more enjoyable to work in than corresponding male dominated environments. There is a long history of research and analysis that supports these observations.

For example, recent research on collective intelligence supports the benefits of women in groups.[1] The researchers brought together groups of 2 to 5 people, and gave them various tasks to perform. The groups that performed better at the tasks were not correlated with highest average group IQ or highest individual IQ, but were correlated with groups with higher social sensitivity and in turn with a higher proportion of women. (In general, women measure better in social sensitivity than do men; a socially sensitive man, given the chance, would improve a group’s performance just as well.) The research further showed that the measure of social sensitivity and collective intelligence was predictive of how a group would perform on future tasks. In other words, the inclusion of women in a group makes the group smarter and more productive.

The following videos show Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook, Marissa Mayer, Google, and Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, describing their views of the role of women.

As noted earlier, Sheryl Sandberg was an important addition as COO to Facebook. She brought not only considerable corporate and growth experience to Facebook, but also importantly a considerable degree of social intelligence. For further background on and material from Sheryl Sandberg, see [2].

The second video is Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Local, Maps & Location Services; Meyer was one of Google’s earliest employees. She describes herself not as a women at Google, but as a geek at Google (apparently one with fashion sense). For more material, see [3].

Since a global view is increasing important, the third video is from Madeleine Albright, who “broke the glass ceiling” to become the first woman U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001. Interestingly, her granddaughter now says, “So what’s the big deal about Grandma Maddie being Secretary of State? Only girls are Secretary of State.” For more material, see [4].

Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders
TEDWomen, 2011 December 7

Google VP Marissa Mayer
Women In the Economy Conference, The Wall Street Journal, 2011 April 4

Madeleine Albright: On being a woman and a diplomat
TEDWomen, 2011 December 8

Boston does have women in some leadership roles, but they are largely absent from national lists of influential women in technology.[5] Truly more substantive opportunities for women in Boston companies would help to foster development of the next major technology companies.

A recent report from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology suggests that companies apply a variation of the “Rooney Rule”, requiring that at least one qualified female candidate be included in the pool of candidates to be considered for an open technical position.[6]

Maybe the next major technology company will be founded by a woman…

Notes, References, and Additional Materials.

1. Anita Williams Woolley; Christopher F. Chabris; Alexander Pentland; Nada Hashmi; Thomas W. Malone. Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups. Science, v330, p686-688. 2010.10.29. (Podcast)

Defend Your Research: What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women. Anita Woolley; Thomas Malone. Harvard Business Review. 2011.06.

A step in the wrong direction. Steven Grossman; Gloria Cordes Larson. The Boston Globe. 2012.02.22.

2. Why we have too few women leaders. Sheryl Sandberg. TEDWomen. 2011.12.07.

For additional videos from TEDWomen:

Sheryl Sandberg On Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders. The Huffington Post. 2011.12.13.

A Woman’s Place – Can Sheryl Sandberg upend Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture? Ken Auletta. The New Yorker. 2011.07.11.

Why Facebook Needs Sheryl Sandberg. Brad Stone. Business Week. 2011.05.11.

3. Marissa Mayer on Being a Google ‘Geek’. WSJ. 2011.04.05.
Google’s VP of new products Marissa Mayer tells WSJ’s Julia Angwin that even in the male-dominated field of technology, she’s less aware of her status as a woman, than her status as a geek.

Women in the Economy, April 2011. WSJ.

A Blueprint for Change. Women in the Economy. WSJ. 2011.04.10.

4. Madeleine Albright: On being a woman and a diplomat. TEDWomen. 2011.12.08.

Madeleine Korbel Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, Biography.

The Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute For Global Affairs, Wellesley College.

Wintersession Program, Albright Institute, Wellesley College.

5. The 10 most powerful women in Boston tech (plus 5 up-and-comers). Scott Kirsner. Innovation Economy. The Boston Globe. 2012.02.08.

Most Influential Women In Technology, 2011. FastCompany.

A step in the wrong direction. Steven Grossman; Gloria Cordes Larson. The Boston Globe. 2012.02.22.

The 2011 Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers of Massachusetts Public Companies. The Boston Club. 2011.11.11.

The Eighth Annual Status Report of Women Directors and Executive Officers of Public Companies in 14 Regions of the United States. InterOrganization Network (ION). 2011.12.22.

Most Influential Women In Technology, 2011. FastCompany.

Silicon Valley women are on the rise, but have far to go. Vivek Wadhwa. The Washington Post. 2011.11.09.

J. McGrath Cohoon; Vivek Wadhwa; Lesa Mitchell. The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Are Successful Women Entrepreneurs Different from Men? Kauffman Foundation. 2010.05.11.

6. How to Get More Women Hired for Technical Roles. Joseph Walker. FINS/WSJ. 2012.02.28.

Solutions to Recruit Technical Women. Caroline Simard; Denise Gammal. Anita Borg Institute. 2012.02.28.

Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

Rooney Rule. Wikipedia.

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