As with most industries, the tech industry continues to consist predominantly of men. However, just as with business, philanthropy, and politics, the tech industry has always been influenced tremendously by powerful women. Increasingly, their efforts are being recognized and celebrated in a variety of forms.
In fact, Forbes has been celebrating accomplished women in a variety of professional spheres for over a decade and a half by assembling a list. In honor of the publication’s 15th year publishing this list, the four women profiled below each appear in the top 15 of the 2018 Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
1. Susan Wojcicki
Susan Diane Wojcicki, born in Santa Clara, California, in 1968, is the daughter of a teacher and a Stanford University physics professor. She grew up in the Stanford area before attending Harvard, where she earned a degree in history and literature in 1990. Wojcicki then attended the University of California. There, she studied business and economics, graduating with an MBA in 1998.
Wojcicki returned to Silicon Valley in 1998, renting garage space at her Menlo Park home to the new start-up, Google Inc. She worked for Google by 1999, though by then the company had relocated its headquarters to a more conventional office space. Her first big success with the corporation took place in 2000, when the company debuted AdWords, the clickable advertisements that head Google search results.
She subsequently helped develop Google’s AdSense system, as well as playing an instrumental role in the acquisition of Applied Semantics. Google began brokering pay-per-click advertising, subsequently buying DoubleClick. The interface deployed cookies collecting user internet preferences, a powerful tool in online advertising today.
Wojcicki oversaw Google’s acquisition of YouTube, becoming YouTube CEO in 2014. She featured on the Forbes 2019 power women list, which included 20 female tech leaders whose influence is growing, year on year.
2. Sheryl Sandberg
Born in Washington DC in 1969, Sheryl Sandberg earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Harvard. Soon after graduating summa cum laude, she worked at the World Bank before returning for another degree. This time, she attended Harvard Business College.
During the Clinton administration, Sandberg worked in the US Department of the Treasury. After the Democrats’ defeat in November 2000, she relocated to Silicon Valley and spent the next seven years working for Google.
Sheryl Sandberg moved to Facebook in 2008, where she oversees the organization’s business operations. Sandberg helped Facebook scale its operations while simultaneously expanding its global footprint. She directs public policy, marketing, communications, and privacy, as well as human resources.
Sandberg is also the author of Lean In, a bestselling book about women in leadership roles. The book inspired LeanIn.org, a global community group she founded to support women and help them realize their potential. Sandberg was featured in the billionaire’s list in 2014, the same year she became the first female director on Facebook’s board.
3. Angela Ahrendts
Angela Ahrendts was born on June 12, 1960, in New Palestine, Indiana. She was one of six children. She attended Indiana’s Ball State University. After graduating, she bought a one-way ticket to New York City, having had ambitions of working in the fashion industry from an early age.
After a stint at a menswear company, she moved to lingerie maker Warnaco. She worked in merchandising in the late 1980s before serving as the president of Donna Karan International for six years. In the mid-1990s, Ahrendts was employed by Henri Bendel, helping expand the company’s operations. In 1998, she moved to Liz Claiborne. She spent eight years with the company, eventually becoming executive vice president.
In 2006, Ahrendts moved to England and became CEO of Burberry. She immediately set about revitalizing the company, updating its product lines and embracing ecommerce and other new technologies. Ahrendts was awarded the title Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2014, in recognition of her work transforming the British fashion house.
In 2014, she became Apple’s Executive Vice President of Retail, overhauling its retail outlets: revamping the stores, improving employee morale, and improving the buying process to provide a luxury experience. She left Apple in April, 2019, as the corporation’s highest-paid employee, earning $24.2 million in 2017.
4. Ginni Rometty
Rometty learned at a young age that education is power. Born in 1957 in Chicago, Illinois, Rometty’s father walked out when she was 15 years old. Her mother had no food, no house, and no money. Rometty’s mother, with no college degree, subsequently went back to school, got a job, and ensured all of her four children had the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Ginni Rometty attended Northwestern University, earning degrees in computer science and electrical engineering. She briefly worked for the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan, as well as at GE. In 1981, she joined IBM as a systems engineer, taking the position of CEO in 2012, becoming the first female to head IBM.
Ginni Rometty has appeared in Fortune Magazine’s list of 50 most powerful businesswomen for over a decade, ranking first several times. She has also been included in the Forbes world’s 100 most powerful people.