The Fortune 500 is an annual ranking by Fortune Magazine of the largest corporations worldwide as measured by revenue. In their most updated list, 59 of the companies had female CEOs. That is 11.8% of companies headed by women.
Below are some of the leading giants in the tech industry and beside them are their leaders.
Notice something about these leaders: their gender, their race. Male & monotone. If we narrow our search only to the technology sector, our number of women CEO gets smaller: 6 of the 106 tech companies included in the list are run by women: 5.6% of the most profitable tech companies are run by women. If we further narrow this down to race, there are only 5 African-American CEOS in fortune 500 companies, 4 of them male. Business seems to be a man’s world. (The world is seemingly a man’s world, but that’s not what this article is about.)
In the face of these frustrating statistics, Bozoma Saint John is forging a new path for women of color in the tech industry and we all need to keep our eyes on her. Previously the head of global and consumer marketing at Apple Music and iTunes, she has now taken on a daunting task: Chief Brand Officer at Uber. While she was speaking at the Forbes’ Women’s Summit, one of the first questions she was asked had to do with leaving the stability of Apple to enter the volatility of Uber, especially in it’s current condition.
“That’s why I have a job!” she replied with a laugh.
Saint John is presenting a groundbreaking reality to women in business today, that a seat at the table is something worth fighting for. While her day-to-day duties may not reach outside the Uber hemisphere, her actions and image are sewn into our efforts at empowerment. This is a big deal. Saint John is setting precedents for women, and she is fully accepting her responsibility to advocate for other women of color. She proclaims, “Why would I wait for Tim Cook to make an announcement about what diversity means to me?” Saint John is pushing through white male dominated technology conferences, she is providing voices for millions of women and lighting up a path for everyone waiting to follow. She will be one of the women who our baby girls look to when asked what they want to do when they grow up. (“I want to be a CEO!”)
It is easy to look up the ladder at our idols and feel discouraged when we don’t see anybody that looks like us. “If no one like me has done it so far, why do I think I can?” We must keep fighting ladies, we deserve encouraging statics, we deserve to have our pick of mentors, and man, do we deserve a break from otherwise mediocre white men.