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Silicon Valley boardrooms are still boys clubs

December 11, 2014, 12:00 PM UTC
Major Chinese Bank, Bank, Europe, United Kingdom, 2012, TP Benne
Board room with video conferencing, Major Chinese Bank, Bank, Europe, United Kingdom, 2012, TP Bennett. (Photo by View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images)
Photograph by View Pictures/UIG/Getty Images

Silicon Valley may be at the forefront of technology, but it still lags behind the rest of corporate world when it comes to gender diversity.

A study released today by law firm, Fenwick & West, compared leadership at S&P 100 companies to the top 150 Silicon Valley businesses. The results? Silicon Valley may be forging the future, but it has the male demographics of the past.

All S&P 100 companies have at least one woman director compared with just 62% of Silicon Valley companies on the list. The picture gets bleaker in terms of the overall board membership. Over one in five directors at S&P 100 companies are female versus just 10% in Silicon Valley.

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Female CEOs remain rare at both S&P companies and in tech. But tech is still behind. Only 3.3% of Silicon Valley CEOs are women compared with 9% of S&P 100 companies. But contrary to popular belief, having a woman in charge does not actually mean more diversity. Whether CEOs were men or women had no impact on the gender numbers in the boardroom, the study found.


This year, the technology industry has received a lot of grief about it’s skewed workforce demographics among its rank and file. Under pressure by activists like Rev. Jesse Jackson, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter all disclosed data about their employees showing that they were overwhelmingly white and Asian males.

A close examination of the chief operating officer positions at the top 15 Silicon Valley companies showed some hope for the future. Companies in that small group – think Apple and Google, as opposed to Pandora (No. 72) – are more comparable to S&P 100. While 7.1% of COOs are women at S&P 100 companies, a whopping 37.5% of COOs are women at those top 15 Silicon Valley companies.

But then again, the numbers are so small that they may paint a misleading picture. The top 15 Silicon Valley companies have just a total of three female COOs, since only eight companies have COO positions to be begin with.

“There’s no curve that shows there’s a magical flywheel that’s going to take off here,” said Dave Bell a partner at Fenwick & West. “It cautions us that we’ll have to think about this, it’s not going to solve itself.”