Why are there so few women leaders in tech?

July 23, 2013: 5:52 PM ET

Five male tech CEOs discuss ways to get more female leaders in Silicon Valley.

Brad Garlinghouse

Brad Garlinghouse

FORTUNE -- Technology CEOs wear many hats. But one of their most important responsibilities is recruiting the right employees. Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Hightail (formerly known as YouSendIt), says he spends over 50% of his time attracting talent and hiring new workers. "All of us, at the end of the day, are also chief cultural officers," the former Yahoo (YHOO) executive told the audience at Fortune's Brainstorm TECH conference in Aspen, Colo.

Garlinghouse was joined by four other tech CEOs, including Docusign's Keith Krach and Zach Nelson of NetSuite (N) in a session titled "Fueling Growth with Talent," which took place Tuesday afternoon. Most of the other CEOs on the panel said they spend anywhere from 30% to 40% of their time doing reference checks, approving offers and prioritizing hires.

MORE from Brainstorm Tech

"The most important role of a CEO is to build a high performance team," Krach, the CEO of Docusign, said during the panel. "The second is to get everybody working together as a team." Of course, spending so much time on the people side of the business means other tasks get delegated or dropped. For Krach, those things include "details and doing email." The tech veteran said he recently conducted eight reference checks before hiring a new chief revenue officer, which ended up being a good opportunity to plug his company to potential customers.

For CEOs like David Goldberg, who runs Palo Alto-based SurveyMonkey (and is married to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook (FB) COO and author of Lean In), at least part of that time is also spent on making sure his company is a friendly place to work for both men and women. "About 40% of my senior team are women," said Goldberg. "This is not because of my wife." But Goldberg also said there is still a big "pipeline" problem. "It goes back to education and trying to recruit women for engineering schools," added Docusign's Krach. "It's a question we're asking ourselves all the time."

Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy (yes, the company with the ads that feature scantily-clad women), also said adding more diversity to the workplace is a focus for him. To that end, Irving, who recently took over the domain name-hosting provider, is active in organizations for female engineers and has mentored female executives. As for Garlinghouse, the CEO of HighTail, he thinks the emergence of new female role models (a la Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer) could have a positive effect on getting more women into the engineering field.

But for now, women (and minorities) are still a small percentage of overall employees at many major tech companies, even with all of the focus on hiring.

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Michal Lev-Ram
Michal Lev-Ram
Writer, Fortune

Based in Silicon Valley, Michal Lev-Ram covers enterprise and mobile technologies for FORTUNE. Prior to joining FORTUNE, she wrote for CNNMoney, Fast Company, Popular Science and other business and technology publications. She was also a staff writer at Business 2.0 and holds a B.A. in journalism from San Francisco State University.

Email Michal
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.