Why Do We Keep Asking: Where Are All the Women in Tech?

A portrait of a businesswoman...
A portrait of a businesswoman...

Fortune recently published an article in which a panel of five male tech CEOs discussed the dearth of women leaders in tech.

Naturally, my first question was: why is this a panel of men?

If we want more women in technology, we need to have more women at the helm. We need to ask women CEOs how they ensure their teams leverage a strong gender balance. And we have to stop referring only to the same well-known handful of women in tech (unfortunately, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer are not representative of most women in technology), when there are so many other great role models to extoll, who come from a variety of backgrounds (Julie Larson-Green or Ruchi Sanghvi, anyone?).

Issues of gender visibility aside, let's talk about the actual supply of female talent out there.

While there's no denying that women are graduating in engineering at a lower rate than men, if technology companies truly want to hire qualified women, they are available in much larger numbers than the current representation at tech companies suggests.

An IMT article from earlier this year states: "The number of women in engineering programs varies by school and sub-discipline. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has the highest ratio of female-to-male engineering graduates: about 42 percent of the graduating class of 2010 were women."

These MIT grads went somewhere, and if not to your tech company, you need ask why not. Is it because of your policies, your recruiting techniques, or your lack of women leaders? If tech companies are truly looking for women, they need to hold hiring managers accountable for hiring women at least in proportion to the available supply.

And if we are talking about getting women to senior management and CEO positions, there are many qualified women who are already working in technology.

What I've learned from my years working in the tech sector is that women want to work for companies where they see other women in management roles, so that they know there is something to aspire to. Often the best-kept secret in technology companies is women who are problem solvers, dedicated workers and brilliant engineers. Yet these women are not considered for management positions, because they spend their time working on their deliverables, often tackling the most challenging projects. They spend less time networking up, and often put their own career development last in their priorities. They may also underestimate their own potential and don't "brag" about their accomplishments, as many male counterparts do.

I've heard personally from many talented women that they have been told they are not "strategic," so these worker bees remain the backbone of many teams, but are not given the time or opportunity to showcase their leadership skills. This is why women's development is so critical for gender balance. Developing women is a retention tool that will also build the pipeline of future leaders in technology.

We need to bust the myth that the talent is not out there, and hold tech companies accountable for mirroring the actual number of qualified women at all levels in their companies.

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