Women in tech who rocked 2012

19 Dec 2012

We take a look back at some women who have made strides in technology this year – from taking top positions at companies, to encouraging other women to adopt a career in the field – and salute Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Virginia Rometty, Neelie Kroes and Louise Phelan.

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer

The year 2012 has been the year of Marissa Mayer. In July, the former Google executive was appointed CEO of internet company Yahoo! and faced with the gargantuan task of turning the company’s fortunes around. She is the company’s third CEO in 12 months and its fifth in five years.

Since taking over the corner office at Yahoo!, Mayer has focused largely on the company’s people, with plans to reportedly review and approve each hire herself.

She replaced Mollie Spillman as chief marketing officer with one of her friends in the industry, former CEO of Lockerz Kathy Savitt, and hired Jacqueline Reses as executive vice-president of people and development.

Mayer also introduced ‘PB&J’ (process, bureaucracy and jams) at Yahoo!, an initiative to gather feedback and suggestions from employees on how to make their workplace better.

Under Mayer’s leadership, Yahoo! employees have also seen Friday FYI staff meetings, the elimination of mandatory orientation at the gym, free food in the cafeteria at Yahoo!’s Sunnyvale, California, headquarters, and the removal of parking lot barriers and turned off turnstiles at the Sunnyvale headquarters, as well.

Mayer has also moved employees away from the BlackBerry in favour of brand new smartphones running iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.

If all that wasn’t enough, Mayer gave birth to her first child, a son named Macallister, at the end of September. Two weeks later, she was back in the office.

Marissa Mayer

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg

Social networking giant Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg joined the company’s board of directors at the end of June in a move that has made her Facebook’s first female director.

Sandberg, who oversees Facebook’s business operations, including sales, marketing, business development, legal, human resources, public policy and communications, had said she feels lucky to be part of a company that is having a profound impact on the world.

Sandberg, with chief financial officer David Ebersman, also headed up most of the roadshow meetings to pitch Facebook’s stock to investors prior to its IPO in May.

Later that month, Sandberg spoke about gender roles in the workplace at Harvard Business School’s Class Day.

“Give us a world where half our homes are run by men and half our businesses are run by women,” said Sandberg, who is a Harvard University graduate herself.

“We need to acknowledge openly that gender remains an issue at the highest levels of leadership,” said Sandberg, who added that women need more encouragement to pursue higher-level executive roles and need to grab opportunities as they arise.

“When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat, just take it,” Sandberg said.

Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

IBM president and CEO Virginia Rometty

Virginia Rometty became technology giant IBM’s first female leader and ninth CEO in January, when she took over the CEO and president role from Samuel Palmisano.

Nine months later, she took the reins of another of Palmisano’s roles, that of chairman of IBM, effective 1 October when Palmisano stepped down from the board.

Palmisano became senior adviser to IBM until he retired on 1 December 2012.

Fortune magazine has named Rometty in its ’50 Most Powerful Women in Business’ list for eight consecutive years, and she earned the top spot in the ranking for 2012.

Virginia Rometty

IBM president and CEO Virginia Rometty

European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes

The vice-president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for the Digital Agenda, has set down ambitious Digital Agenda targets of all citizens getting superfast broadband by 2020.

The purpose of the Digital Agenda is to harness the internet and other digital technologies to drive sustainable economic growth.  

Kroes wants to see €7bn earmarked for EU investments in broadband to help reach the Digital Agenda targets, which in turn is meant to draw in private funds of many times that amount.  

Kroes has also called for the creation of an EU-wide strategy for cloud computing that makes full use of the single market. She said it was important to avoid the creation of a tapestry of small clouds in smaller markets.

She spoke at the Economic Council Symposium ‘Cloud-Computing – Between Growth Opportunities and Privacy’ in Brussels, Belgium, saying cloud computing could revolutionise public services while ensuring opportunities and recognition for innovators.

In May, at the Freedom Re:Publica conference in Berlin, in a speech about fundamental freedoms online, Kroes argued that while yes, the internet should be free, it should not be a lawless Wild West.

She said the thousands of people who took to the streets to protest ACTA in Europe, as well as the online activism in the US that sent SOPA to a juddering halt showed just how much people care about freedom on the internet.

Neelie Kroes

European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes

PayPal’s vice-president of global operations for EMEA Louise Phelan

PayPal’s vice-president of global operations for EMEA Louise Phelan became the first woman to receive the Sir Michael Smurfit Business Achievement Award in October.

Maurice Buckley, president, CEO, and co-founder of Ireland Chamber of Commerce USA (ICCUSA), and Brian O’Dwyer, chairman of the ICCUSA, presented Phelan with the award at the 24th Annual American Celtic Ball in New York City.

Phelan was chosen to receive the award by the board of the ICCUSA in recognition of the role she has played as a business leader during one of the most challenging economic periods in Irish history, and her success in securing significant jobs and investment through PayPal’s operations in Ireland.

Earlier this year, Phelan secured a second operations centre and 1,000 new jobs for PayPal’s growing European operations division.

Later in the year, as part of a new Dublin Web Summit campaign to encourage more women in technology, Phelan spoke at A Leaders’ Lunch as part of a wider effort to inspire more women to dive into the tech space.

Other speakers at the event included Marcy Simon, the co-founder of Agent of Change; Anne Heraty, CEO of CPL; and Sonia Flynn, director of user operations at Facebook.

Louise Phelan

PayPal’s vice-president of global operations for EMEA Louise Phelan

Louise Phelan, PayPal’s vice-president of global operations for EMEA, will be among the panelists at the Future Jobs Forum on 8 February, where leaders will tackle the global battle for talent

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic