Roughly half of the world's population is female, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the technology sector in the U.S.
According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, women held only 25 percent of all "professional computing technology" jobs in 2015. Meanwhile, that same year, women held 57 percent of all professional occupations in the country.
In my experience as a journalist I've talked with dozens of entrepreneurs who serve underprivileged communities in the U.S. and around the world. Many of them have told me stories of sexism in Silicon Valley. Some of it is intentional and some of it is just part of the culture. Much of it is systemic, baked into company hierarchies or venture capital decisions.
Things are changing though. After all, the tech space is perfect for women who want to have a big impact on society. With so much of technology centered around solving key social ills and as well as making the world a better place, it's a great match for many modern, forward-thinking businesswomen.
The inspirational women that made my list of tech leaders to watch in 2017 are not only some of the more admired executives and experts in the technology world. They also deliver passion and creativity to the field, helping generate innovative products and services that are disrupting numerous industries.
1. Jessica Naziri, TechSesh
A longtime influencer, technology expert, content strategist, and media personality, Jessica uses her expertise to help startups and tech companies reach niche markets. Many of her followers are young women who are passionate about both style and technology. She does this with media strategy development and brand positioning to put technology in front of influencers. She is also the founder and CEO of TechSesh, a website that provides info on stylish wearable tech, women in technology, gadget and app reviews, as well as tech tips. The thematic goal for her career has been to demystify technology and make it more accessible to the average person.
2. Dara Treseder, FileMaker, Inc.
Dara is an influential woman of color and senior marketing executive in Silicon Valley. She is currently the senior global head of demand generation at FileMaker, Inc., an Apple subsidiary. Dara has a passion for innovations that improve the human experience, public health, and women's issues. She sits on the board of the Public Health Institute -- one of the largest, most comprehensive public health organizations in the nation. Dara is also the co-founder of NeuBridges, an innovation consultancy that, since 2014, has trained more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in growth markets around the world.
3. Gail Carmichael, Shopify
A highly regarded computer scientist, blogger, and educator, Gail is currently the External Education team leader for Shopify. The mission of the group is to make the experience of learning computational thinking and computer science better for everyone. Projects are designed to focus on one of four thematic groupings: policy, outreach and diversity, degrees and apprenticeships, and academic research. She also helped co-found the Carleton Women in Science and Engineering and is passionately devoted to sharing her joy of technology and computer science with girls and women.
4. Kimberly Bryant, Black Girls Code
As the founder and executive director of Black Girls Code, Kimberly is rapidly becoming one of the most influential women in technology education. The education nonprofit was founded in 2011 in San Francisco and has expanded to cities across the United States and in South Africa. The educational focus is on teaching girls of color between the ages of 6 and 17 to develop mobile apps and learn computer programming, robotics development, as well as other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills. The vision of Black Girls Code has been to increase the number of minority women in all technology fields by empowering and educating them from an early age. Kimberly has received numerous awards, including the the Jefferson Award for Public Service. She was also honored by the White house in 2013 as a "Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion."
5. Ekta Sahasi, Konica Minolta
Ekta is Vice President of the US Business Innovation Center (BIC) for Konica Minolta in Silicon Valley. She is responsible for driving the company's transformation by leveraging the startup ecosystem to help the company expand in new areas. Comfortable in the lab and boardroom, Ekta has established herself as a leader and innovative thinker in an often male-dominated Asian business environment. She is an active investor and advisor in Silicon Valley, coaching startups on how to extend their solutions into Asian and other global markets.
6. Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
If you have read a compelling, comprehensive report on Internet trends in the last decade, it's quite possible Mary Meeker was behind at least some of those trends. She is a market-moving VC at Kleiner Perkins and previously was a mover and shaker at Morgan Stanley. She leads Kleiner's digital growth equity team that focuses on explosive and disruptive Internet companies. She is a visionary who understands what technology will best serve the Internet trends she sees and has previously made significant investments in tech companies like Twitter, Instacart, Houzz, and Slack.
7. Loretta Jones, formerly of Insightly
Loretta is a self proclaimed 'startup junkie.' She loves growing early stage SAAS startups, and most recently grew Insightly, a CRM for small business, from 100,000 users to over 1.2 million users in four years. Her experience encompasses marketing strategy, communications, demand generation and growth marketing. In many early stage startups, it's not uncommon for Loretta to be the only female in a male-dominated engineering culture, so she enjoys bringing different energy and perspective to the company.
8. Espree Devora, WeAreLATech.com
Espree has been called the "girl who gets it done" and has carved out quite a place in technology with seminars on interactive content and social media for CBS, Disney, and more. Staring her first online company while in college, she has never looked back and continued to get involved in creating and assisting startups. Among other ventures, Espree started WeAreLATech.com, which is the first podcast directed at LA startups.
9. Cam Kashani, COACCEL
Cam is sometimes referred to as the "Godmother of Silicon Beach." She serves as an expert speaker with the US State Department and has been a founder three times. She is also a single mom of twin boys. Cam has worked with more than 4,000 entrepreneurs and over 700 startups. She says her focus is to use technology to actually humanize business and drive a global economy that thrives on WE, not ME. Her third company is COACCEL: The Human Accelerator, which offers a unique three-month program set on building powerful, mindful leaders.
10. Robyn Forman, Zoomdata
Robyn is Vice President of Marketing for Zoomdata, the creators of the industry's fastest visual analytics for Big Data platforms. Her previous position was as Vice President of Global Marketing for Searchmetrics. She is a B2B technology marketing executive who has experience with a wide range of company models and sizes.
11. Erica Baker, Slack
As one of the founding members of Project Include, Erica has a long history of working on creating inclusive environments in STEM fields for women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. Project Include recognizes the difficulty tech companies face in embracing meaningful diversity and creating corporate cultures built around inclusive solutions. The focus of the group is primarily on working with management division of tech startups to make lasting change that will have broad impacts. In addition to her work advocating for inclusion, she is currently an engineer at Slack Technologies. She lists curiosity, logic, and coding as her preferred resources for solving life's biggest puzzles and problems.
12. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX
Some say it's hard to find enough incredible female leaders in technology, but it may be even harder to find top female rocket scientists. Gwynne Shotwell is the real deal though. As President of SpaceX, she handles the daily operations of this closely-watched Elon Musk company. Her responsibilities include overseeing more than 40 upcoming launches and preparing a next-generation Dragon spacecraft for its first trip to Mars in 2018. She graduated from Northwestern University with degrees in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics. Prior to SpaceX, she worked at Aerospace Corporation and was Director of Microcosm's Space Systems Division.
13. Aarthi Ramamurthy, Lumoid
With a masters degree in software engineering from PSG College of Technology, Aarthi has gone on to carve out quite a technology career. She cut her teeth on firms like Microsoft as a Program Manager before moving on to the position of Product Manager at Netflix. She then became an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Battery Ventures before striking out with her own startups, including True&Co., a bra-fitting company. Now she heads Lumoid, a startup that lets people try out electronics like photography and video gear before buying it.
14. Safra Catz, Oracle
As a self-made woman, Safra has been with Oracle for nearly 20 years, working up the ranks to the co-CEO position she now holds. She is one of the highest-paid female executives and has proved her worth numerous times over with her guidance on Oracle's 85 acquisitions overs the last five years and partnerships like the one she has formed with the Prime Minister of India to build its second largest campus outside of the U.S.
15. Leslie Harris, Future of Privacy Forum
As past president and CEO of The Center for Democracy and Technology, Leslie was instrumental in taking on some of the most challenging issues related to technology. Now, she continues that role as a Senior Fellow at the Future of Privacy Forum. Her focus combines her legal and technology background to understand and propel answers and frameworks for how technology impacts our personal and professional lives.
16. Juliana Rotich, Ushahidi Inc.
Juliana is a jill of all technology trades, including serving as a technologist, strategic advisor, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker. She co-founded Ushahidi Inc., a non-profit tech company in Africa that specializes in developing free and open source software for changing how information flows in the world. She is also the Co-founder of BRCK Inc, a hardware and services technology company formed to realize a vision for enabling communication in low infrastructure environments by developing useful, innovative, and exciting hardware-centered technologies in Kenya.
17. Claire Boonstra, Operation Education
Claire is a graduate of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Founder of Operation Education, which is geared toward changing the structure of traditional schooling into lifetime learning through technology. Her background includes nearly two decades of experience in engineering, technology, and new media. She was elected as a 2012 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Online Media Woman of the Year (2010), and one of the 'Most influential Women in Technology' by Fast Company.
18. Angela Ahrendts, Apple Retail
Although she describes her career as three decades in fashion, Ahrendts has incredible insights into the crossroads between fashion and technology as well as retail and technology. She's parlayed that into her current role as Senior Vice President at Apple Retail, where she's using her experience as former CEO of Burberry and success with digital marketing to help make Apple more fashionable, in addition to being profitable.
19. Ruth Porat, Alphabet, Inc.
Ruth has been a long-standing fixture on Wall Street but then joined Google's parent company Alphabet to apply her finance expertise to a technology company, helping them by enacting cost-cutting initiatives that have helped increase operating margins. She has worked closely with another tech powerhouse on this list, Mary Meeker. As one of the highest paid tech executives, Ruth has proved her worth to Alphabet and illustrated that women can succeed in tech.
20. Amy Hood, Microsoft
Amy is Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Microsoft, where she leads the tech firm's worldwide finance organization. The Harvard Business School grad also held another position in Microsoft as CFO of its Business Division. There, she was responsible for the financial aspects of Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, Dynamics ERP and Dynamics CRM. In this role, Amy was involved in the company's successful acquisitions of Skype and Yammer.
21. Tiffany Poeppelman, LinkedIn
Tiffany earned her Master's in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Northern Kentucky University in 2010. She went on to work at Google UK and is currently a senior sales performance consultant at LinkedIn where she helps to identify areas for improvement and development needs for over 200 sales staff members. Tiffany has many published papers and is a board member and task force lead for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). She speaks at LinkedIn and external events on the subjects of Personal Branding and Bridging Science & Practice.
22. Anne Mette (Anne) Høyer Thoresson, SAP
Anne Mette has used her Masters in Marketing and Communication from Copenhagen Business School to hold down posts in the media industry ranging from sales to podcast host and client management. Mette has used her customer care and communication skills to work her way up to Head of Business Relations for IoT Predictive Maintenance at software giant SAP and is based in Barcelona, Spain.
23. Julia Taylor Cheek, Everly Well
Julia Taylor Cheek is CEO and Founder of Everly Well, which is transforming lab diagnostic testing by leveraging technology to streamline what has previously been a very cumbersome and confusing process. While she has focused more on the business end of startups and public companies, her direction with this latest company has pushed her farther into technology, understanding how she can use it to solve various problems as she had done when she was heading up global strategy and corporate development for MoneyGram International.
24. Danielle Morrill, Mattermark
Danielle is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mattermark, a company working to help customers more effectively manage all the data they now have available to them. Prior to this tech venture, she was Co-Founder and CEO of Referly. Previously, Danielle served as Head of Marketing for Twilio.
25. Maureen Fan, Baobab Studios
Maureen is Co-Founder and CEO of Baobab Studios, a virtual reality animation company that creates story and character-driven cinematic experiences. In 2015, she was nominated for an Oscar for film production for "The Dam Keeper," an animated short film. Previously, she worked at Zynga as Vice President of Games. She is now taking two loves - technology and film - and creating an exciting business from these passions.
26. Cecile Schmollgruber, STEREOLABS
Cecile founded STEREOLABS in 2010 and serves as chief executive officer. The company is now the leading provider of 3D vision systems on a global scale thanks to her technical expertise and business background. The company has earned a reputation for its technological excellence and innovation. She continues to advance the the company through strategic partnerships and deep research and development activities. Previously, Cecile has worked as an analyst and a research engineer.
27. Sophia Dominguez, SVRF
Sophia is Co-Founder and CEO of SVRF, which is focused on building virtual reality products that appeal to the masses. Previously, she was Founder of AllThingsVR. She has had many jobs and roles within the virtual reality and wearable devices environment, looking to stretch the bounds of what is possible with this growing area of technology.
28. Amanda Lannert, The Jellyvision Lab
Amanda Lannert is the Chief Executive Officer of The Jellyvision Lab, a technology company that helps users with big life decisions, including everything from health insurance to money matters. She is integral in the company's strategy, partnership development, and customer acquisition activities. Under her leadership, Jellyvision has doubled its revenue three out of the last four years. Previously, Amanda managed global brands for Kellogg's while at Leo Burnett. She enjoys taking on a greater role in a technology-focused company while applying her business and branding expertise to the role.
29. Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft
Julie is Chief Experience Officer, Officer Experience Organization at Microsoft. She is passionate about building technology that takes care of time-consuming tasks so people can focus on what matters more in their businesses. She works with a team to incubate new technologies and experiences that help people get things done. She has been involved in building such products as Internet Explorer, Office, Windows, Xbox and Surface over the course of the 11 years she has been with Microsoft.
30. Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones, LiveFuels Inc.
Lissa is Co-Founder and CEO of LiveFuels Inc., a company that creates renewable fuels from algae. She leads the strategic planning and corporate development efforts for the company, building on her experience in biotechnology investing from her careere in venture capital. Although she has an economics background, Lissa has focused on those areas of technology that are dedicated to solving some of the world's most pressing environmental issues.
The Future of Women in Technology
The people on this list show there's a whole lot more to the conversation about women in tech than just Sheryl, Meg, and Marissa. The number of female technology leaders keeps growing as more companies recruit from what is now a very large talent pool. Women are just as adept as men, as shown by the high number who are early adopters of technology -- location-based services in particular. Also, according to statistics, women own tech devices more often these days and are also enrolling more often in computer science courses.
The glass ceiling is starting to disappear in some places, even if it is stubbornly hanging on in others. With more women becoming interested in STEM careers, widespread sexism may not stay as strong much longer. The increasing number of female role models will also inspire the next generation of girls to follow technology-based education paths and careers. Whether you're a man or a woman, it's exciting to be here to see how it all plays out.