One Giant Step Back for Software Woman-kind?

Posted by: Sarah Lacy on January 17, 2006

Being one of the few women covering business software out there, every once in a while I have to play the girl card. (And not just to blog about my Ann Taylor silk camisole woes.) Today it’s about Carol Bartz, who stepped down as CEO of Autodesk.

It's a shame and not just because she's been one of those rare posterchildren for women CEOs of large, public tech companies. Bartz helped pull off quite a turn around in her 14 years at Autodesk, landing the company a strong footing on the BusinessWeek 50 last year.

But the woman thing is certainly part of it. Bartz herself addressed this telling Cnet, "It would be nice if there were more women CEOs, but it's not my role to hang around until I'm 80 and drooling." True, but BusinessWeek, like many business publications, gets a lot of flack for peppering its pages with too many white middle-aged men and moves like these don't make it any easier on us to wedge in a few good women-- particularly when it comes to software. I know, we've still got Meg Whitman, but eBay doesn't really count because it's an Internet company. Yes, I know they use software- so does everyone in tech in some way or fashion. But I'm talking real business software. Who else is there?

I guess the highest ranking woman in software now is Safra Catz, president and CFO of Oracle Corp. and rumored to be next in line for the Ellison throne. No one expects Ellison is going anywhere anytime soon. But if Catz were to get the top spot at the world's second largest software company, that'd be quite a coup for software-woman kind. Unfortunately, the intensely private Catz probably wouldn't let many reporters in on how it feels to be the new Carly Fiorina. So here's a public plea to go along with the many, many private ones I've made directly to Oracle: How about an interview, Safra?

Reader Comments

Patrick EMIN

January 18, 2006 4:25 AM

I don't think the business world is a beauty contest, people who are the most capable of runing a business are the one to be chosen. Whether they are tall or short, black or white, man or woman, is really secondary, to say the least...

Willie D.

January 19, 2006 3:18 PM

Not that I want to be a hater or anything, but if you really wanted to get to Safra you'd find a way. There's only one lock but many keys you just haven't tried the right one. Good luck and I'll be looking for that interview.

Sarah Lipman

January 29, 2006 3:03 AM

In my experience, the problem starts at the very beginning. When I meet with technology-types, they couldn't care less that I'm a woman (I'm the founder and inventor of a 3D input technology). All they care about are the specs.

But the VCs? The business side? A whole other story. A huge wall of resistance goes up the minute they see a woman at the table (even though our CEO and CTO are there representing the male half of society). It can take a good half hour of serious discussion of the technology and markets before their eyes open up and the wall comes down.

It hasn't held our company back, but it can be frustrating to have to waste so much time proving I have a brain before business can begin. How many start-ups will never go public because the men who control the money can't get over that initial resistance? How many women might be CEOs if more women held the purse-strings (so to speak)?

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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