Does Silicon Valley Need More Female CEOs?

Marissa Mayer joins the few prominent women who head technology companies, sparking questions as to why Silicon Vally isn't more diverse

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Google's Marissa Mayer will join a small cohort of women who head prominent Silicon Valley companies, as she becomes Yahoo!'s chief executive. The troubled Internet company announced Monday it had recruited the former Google executive to lead Yahoo!.

Mayer will be Yahoo!'s fifth chief executive in the past year, as the company has faced a challenge in recruiting top talent in recent years. She is a trained engineer, responsible for Google's landmark white search page and for Gmail, Google News, and Google Images. After working for Google for 13 years, she will take over Yahoo! as the company attempts to compete with other search engines and Internet products.

The Telegraph questions why there aren't more women like Mayer in the executive offices of Silicon Valley:

Mayer's calling card is woefully rare among her gender. She has a Master's degree in Computer Science from the hallowed Stanford University and specialised in artificial intelligence. Yet the number of female engineers graduating each year in the Western world has barely increased since Mayer joined Google in 1999.

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The new Yahoo! CEO will join a handful of other women who lead large technology companies, as the industry has long been male-dominated. Meg Whitman has been chief executive of Hewlett-Packard since 2011, joining the technology company with 10 years of experience at Ebay. Virginia M. Rometty, is the head of I.B.M. and Sheryl Sandberg, also formally of Google, is Facebook's chief operating officer. Ursula Burns is the chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox.

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The Telegraph notes that only 12 percent of computer science degrees in the United States were awarded to women in 2011. Reasons cited for this include classes being male-dominated and thus intimidating for female students, women being quicker to think they aren't good at the subject, and an uneven start as men tend to study computer science before they go to college.

Women are also less likely to join start-ups, which give them valuable technology experience and the opportunity to move up the corporate ladder.

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An op-ed from says getting more women into the technology industry will benefit the economy at large:

Bringing more women into the entrepreneurial sector will bring a more diverse range of ideas and innovative offerings to our economy. With only 10% of venture-backed startups now co-founded by women and women representing such small numbers in the investing community, we can readily increase the creative power of this critical economic engine. This will have positive effects not just for women, but for all of us who will benefit from the jobs they create and the products and services they bring to market.

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