Gender Diversity Study

The lack of gender diversity at high tech companies in the Silicon Valley has been the subject of much debate, but little progress. Few could agree on the diversity facts of record because no serious research had been done measuring how few women executives there are in comparison to their male counterparts.  However, a landmark gender diversity study has been released that tells us  just how bad the Bay Area bastion of tech maleness really is. The ground breaking study was conducted by the tech law practice of Fenwick & West and is entitled Gender Diversity in Silicon Valley: a Comparison of Silicon Valley Public Companies and Large Public Companies. In fact, the study finds that the paucity of gender diversity at the board level is likely  worse than you thought.  As Business Insider Reporter Lydia Dallett pointed out,

“In the 2013 proxy season, more than 80% of Silicon Valley 150 companies had only one woman director or none at all.”

In other words, public companies to large public companies not counted among the SV150, the difference is vast.

The law firm sifted through public filings for the proxy seasons from 1996 through 2013, tallying up the number of women serving on boards and executive teams of companies in the boards of directors and 40% have just one woman director.


The Silicon Valley tech companies are public companies, mind you, not tech startups. They each have, on average, 8500 employees.  S&P 100 companies  average 170,000 employees. However, when you compare the two,  SV150 companies seem as immature as a school boy who punches a classmate in the arm to show her how much he likes her.

The facts are now indisputable: women are profoundly under-represented at the senior executive and board levels in Silicon Valley. Of course, the question becomes what do we do about that? At a minimum, the law firm Fenwick & West suggests the following:

As anyone who lives and works in the high technology and life sciences industries of Silicon Valley can readily attest, Silicon Valley is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity and culture as well as in many other ways, drawing talent from across the United States and around the world. And, as a general matter, Silicon Valley companies embrace open-mindedness and meritocracy as core values and are interested in attracting the best, most talented workforce possible, in the belief that it is essential to the success of their businesses. We hope that the information in this study  . . . will spur and inform additional thought and discussion among the participants and leaders in the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Dude, Where’s My Code?

Of course, any woman working in the tech industry has likely experienced the lack of gender diversity first hand. In fact, the male gender dominance has given rise to so-called  “bro” culture. If nerds with pocket protecters were not enough, women of the Silicon Valley have the growing ranks of brogrammers with which to contend. According to the Urban Dictionary:

A programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy: popped collars, bad beer, and calling everybody “bro”. Despised by everyone, especially other programmers.

Example: “Oh my god, John is talking about football and chicks again. That guy is such a brogrammer.”

I’d like to believe that the gender diversity study will prompt more evolved leaders in Silicon Valley to take steps to ensure fairness for all deserving candidates.  There are simple steps one can take to level the playing field. Our retained search practice The Good Search and our research practice Intellerati have done extensive work  in diversity recruiting and diversity talent acquisition. We help top media and technology companies identify, profile, and cultivate relationships with the best and brightest diverse talent at the senior executive level — well in advance of hiring needs. We develop diversity talent pools uncovering top diverse talent to ensure their light is not hidden under a bushel. Moreover, diversity talent pools also help to off-set the homogenous effect of employee referrals. To become truly diverse, we must reach beyond our own networks to include executives who do not resemble ourselves.

Share This