Mark Zuckerberg may want to connect the whole world to the internet, but Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has a different -- and maybe more difficult -- ambition for the social networking giant: To give women a bigger share of its work force.
“Yes, I want half, half, half across the board. Fifty percent,” Sandberg told USA Today when asked if she had a goal in mind for increasing diversity at Facebook. Just 31 percent of the company’s staff are women, according to internal data released by Facebook earlier this year.
Facebook is sadly typical of the tech industry. Apple said Tuesday that women make up 30 percent of its workers, including those who staff its retail counters. Its tech work force is just 20 percent female. Google’s staff is also 30 percent female.
The “Lean In” author blamed the lack of diversity in tech in part on the dearth of qualified women coming out of college. Just 18 percent of computer science majors are women, Sandberg noted, adding that she’d like to see that share rise to 58 percent -- the same percentage of women earning college degrees overall.
Even qualified women face obstacles in Corporate America, though: They’re judged more harshly for acting aggressively and promoting other women, they’re often put in charge of companies when those businesses are in trouble, and their careers are more likely to be held up when they have and take care of kids.
In many cases these issues are more acute in the tech industry, a traditionally male-dominated field. Tech-savvy women can be subject to discrimination and outright harassment when seeking funding for their ventures or promotions within tech companies. And with few female role models at the top, there’s little incentive to move up; a recent study of female engineers found that about a quarter leave the field after they turn 30, compared to just one in 10 men.
One big problem, Sandberg told USA Today, is that corporate leaders and the public often think organizations have diversified enough when they have a few women at the top, instead of pushing for true parity.
“I think we suffer from the tyranny of low expectations,” she said.