C California Style

PHOTO: Carlos Chavarría.
PHOTO: Carlos Shavarría.
PHOTO: Carlos Shavarría.
PHOTO: Carlos Shavarría.
PHOTO: Carlos Shavarría.
PHOTO: Carlos Shavarría.
PHOTO: Drew Kelly.

Hard Drive

by C California Style

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg—the big names in Silicon Valley have historically been men.

The gender gap starts early: Women earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees at major universities. More men go on to start tech companies; just 10 percent of startups are led by women, who receive only 7 percent of the venture capital that gets young startups off the ground. As for the decision makers at those VCs, only 4.2 percent are women, and more than three-fourths of venture firms do not have a single female partner.

But today, a new generation of women in Silicon Valley is dramatically narrowing the divide. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Google’s Susan Wojcicki, to name a celebrated few, have broken through the silicon ceiling and are inspiring others to follow. Significantly, the myth of computer programming as an all-male enclave is wearing thin. At the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism, where I teach—and where 74 percent of our students are female—we have never had more interest in coding, the new language requirement of the digital age. Journalism students eager to create news apps and tools to enhance their storytelling are clamoring for more (in no small part due to two female professors, Amara Aguilar and Peggy Bustamante, who are leading the coding charge).

The next phase of the Web—mobile, social and consumer-driven—is creating opportunities for women in tech. As Padmasree Warrior, former chief technology officer of Cisco, recently told me, “The industry is becoming more multi-disciplinary. It’s combining design with engineering, and with business. I believe women excel at that.”

Indeed, the women of Silicon Valley are creating, funding and managing some of tech’s top next-gen companies. To borrow from the lingo of the tech world, they are “disruptors,” challenging conventional ways of doing business; building new marketplaces to connect people, products and ideas; launching startups, and taking them to scale. They are influencers, forging powerful connections with their users, and driving traffic and revenue to their bottom lines. These savvy networkers are creating a robust culture of female support and empowerment, forging a “girls club” unrivaled in any city or by any industry, whose secret handshake is a willingness to share your expertise, your contacts and your advice.

Here is a select group of women who are helping reshape the culture of the Valley with their talent and tenacity, powering the digital economy and emerging as a new breed of leaders.

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy

Founder and CEO of Joyus, an online video entertainment network dedicated to shopping based in S.F., with offices in L.A. and NYC   Read More

Ruzwana Bashir

Founder and CEO of Peek, an online marketplace for finding and booking activities, based in San Francisco   Read More

Aileen Lee

Founder, Cowboy Ventures, a seed-stage focused fund based in Palo Alto that seeks “to back exceptional founders who are building technology products that re-imagine work and personal life,” according to its mission statement   Read More

Juliet de Baubigny

Senior partner at one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), headquartered in Menlo Park, with offices in Shanghai and Beijing   Read More

Jessica Herrin

CEO and founder, Stella & Dot, a social selling boutique-style jewelry company based in San Francisco   Read More

Alison Pincus

Co-founder, home decor e-commerce site One Kings Lane (based in S.F. and with an office in NYC), and founder of a forthcoming “commerce-for-good” project launching next year   Read More

Kara Swisher

Executive editor of tech news and analysis site Re/code; host, Re/code Decode podcast; and co‑executive producer, Code Conference, an annual gathering of top industry influencers for in-depth conversations about the impact of digital technology   Read More

Intro by WILLOW BAY.