Weili Dai: It's pure mythology that women can't perform as well as men in science and math
It's in world's interest to develop environments that leverage women's natural talents
There are signs of improvement in the tech sector but women can do better
To grow the global economy women must be encouraged to work in science and technology
Editor’s Note: Weili Dai is co-founder of Marvell Technology Group, a leading global technology company that makes chips for smartphones, Google TV, cloud services and other connected consumer devices. She is the only female co-founder of a global semiconductor company in the world.
Technology is one of the key drivers of female economic empowerment, but the fields that women choose to participate in are still decidedly gendered.
In science, technology, engineering and mathematics, men far outnumber women in the classroom and the boardroom. In the United States, less than 20% of engineering and computer science majors are women.
It is pure mythology that women cannot perform as well as men in science, engineering and mathematics. In my experience, the opposite is true: Women are often more adept and patient at untangling complex problems, multitasking, seeing the possibilities in new solutions and winning team support for collaborative action.
To rectify this imbalance, I believe we must give young girls access to tools and devices that will implant an early desire to learn about technology. In the long term, toys, games and devices that challenge girls academically will help them contribute to the scientific ecosystem.
I believe it is in the world’s interest to develop environments that fully engage women and leverage their natural talents.
To be sure, the progress of women making inroads in the technology industry has been slow and hard won. And it is still no easy task to break through the silicon ceiling.
When I co-founded Marvell in 1995, I was the first woman founder of a chip company. Yes, I am a geek. Now 17 years later, I am still the only woman to break that barrier in America.
While women make up more than half the world’s population and workforce, less than 29% of “decision-making” positions are held by women globally. Even in progressive Silicon Valley, women still occupy a fraction of the C-level offices and board seats.
All around me there are signs of change: I can count today, as friends and colleagues, a growing roster of women leaders in a wide variety of technology sectors.
But I believe we can do better. In fact, I believe the single best way to grow the struggling global economy is to fully engage women as business leaders in new and emerging industries.
That’s why last September I joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and hundreds of other global female leaders in San Francisco for a dialogue on fostering women’s economic empowerment as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Women and the Economy Summit.
At APEC WES, I assembled a panel of five great women leaders representing the key sectors of the new innovation economy: Education and research, government and public policy, social entrepreneurs, and business and technology. This “dream team” panel was a perfect example of the range of talent, skills, and leadership women deliver across a wide array of industries and walks of life. It demonstrated that women are playing at the big-league level of every field of endeavor.
I am proud I was a part of this conversation about how developing countries can create more supportive environments for women business leaders and entrepreneurs. Our work resulted in new policy recommendations that will help increase women’s participation and drive economic growth in Asia and beyond.
In the tech sector, it’s a two way street: Women bring unique attributes and strengths to the technology world – and technology is a critical catalyst to the advancement of women in the general economy.
Innovations in technology and communications have already enabled women to balance career with family, allowing greater flexibility in the workplace. While in developing countries, female entrepreneurs are empowered by breakthroughs like mobile connectivity and e-commerce websites.
This connected lifestyle has not only enabled women to learn, but has also created a more enlightened global society better exposed to the idea of women in non-traditional roles. In addition, it’s provided a community without borders that fosters the encouragement of women from around the world.
The more connected our world becomes, the greater the opportunity for female innovators.
As a woman, I believe that leveraging our inherent strengths – the sense of responsibility, passion, compassion, and pride we dedicate to family and community – and applying it to business can make us the x factor in a new era of global growth and prosperity.
The best thing we can do to grow the global economy is to encourage more women to go into science and technology fields – in essence, to encourage girls and women to release their inner geeks.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Weili Dai.