Challenge any expert to list the most influential women in the world of tech, and you can confidently expect Sheryl Sandberg to be one of the first names that they reel off. The 45-year-old is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, making her the second highest-ranking person within the social media firm after Mark Zuckerberg – and, in an industry which remains dominated by men, she is on a mission to boost the chances of the feminine sex.
The issue of the poor representation of women in tech has been long acknowledged. In an interview with Mashable in June, Apple chief Tim Cook insisted that it was a “cop-out” to suggest that the problem was simply down to women lacking interest in tech, and claimed that, instead, the tech community as a whole was at fault for not having “done enough to reach out and show young women that it’s cool to do it and how much fun it can be.”
Apple has clearly done its own bit to help redress the balance; only this week, Cook reported that, over the past year, his company handed work to over 11,000 women internationally, a 65% increase on the figure of the year before. That upward trend could boost the number of female role models that Cook has told Mashable can inspire more women to follow in the footsteps of people like Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s female Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores.
Ultimately, no one woman could be powerful enough to single-handedly turn the tide; however, one woman who looks likely to turn it more than any other is Sheryl Sandberg. Her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is intended to help women to thrive in their careers, and looks at various issues that prevent women becoming work leaders – including discrimination, sexism and sexual harrassment. She has also spoke out in favor of female empowerment through other avenues, like in this video interview conducted for the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Still, despite her efforts, there clearly remains much room for improvement in attracting more women even to her own company. Facebook’s most recent diversity report in June revealed that, globally, a mere 16% of its tech employees are female. Global Director of Diversity, Maxine Williams, has admitted that there is clearly work ahead for boosting the diversity of the company’s staff profile. Could Facebook’s COO help? Well, one thing seems certain: however much Sandberg actually succeeds in tilting the tech gender balance more in the female favor over the next few years, there will remain no lack of trying on her part.