Google's Marissa Mayer says more women needed in tech

CES executive panel says high schools need to get kids interested in computer science

Women may have come a long way in the high-tech field in the last 10 years, but there's still a lot of room for growth, according to a group of female tech executives.

And Marissa Mayer, a vice president at Google, said we're just not doing enough to get more women into the high-tech field.

"I think what we're really playing is a numbers game, " said Mayer, speaking as part of a panel at CNet's Women in Technology panel at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. "Right now, it's a really great time to be a woman in technology -- but there aren't enough women in technology. I worry that a lot of times the conversation gets focused on what percentage of the pie is women. And the truth is the pie isn't big enough."

Part of the larger problem, she noted, is that the United States is not producing enough computer scientists.

"We're not producing enough product designers. We need more people to keep up with all these gadgets, all this tech and these possibilities and the jobs of the future," said Mayer. "We need a lot more people and if we grow that number, then the number of women, by nature, goes up."

What we need, she added, is to push more high schools to get kids interested in computer science.

Mayer was quick to point out that when it comes to advanced placement exams, 200,000 students take the calculus test, but only 14,000 take the computer science one. That means 7% of the students who think they're good at math take both the math exam and the computer science exam.

"If you talk to Google engineers, only 2% were exposed to computer science in high school," added Mayer. "We really just need to get that number up. Imagine if we had 200,000 or 500,000 students graduating from high school every year who have taken computer science, as well as calculus."

Cisco Systems CTO Padmasree Warrior, who also sat on the all-woman panel, said that while more women need to be working in high-tech, the industry is doing better than ever before.

"I think they've come a long way," said Warrior. "I feel pretty good about where women are in tech. If you look at two of the largest tech companies today, IBM and HP, they have women CEOs and there are a lot of women in tech who have made progress in our lives.... I would like to see more women out on the floor [of CES] but in the past 10 years we have made a lot of progress."

CNet Executive Editor Molly Wood hosted the panel, which also included Flickr founder Catarina Fake and Lindsey Turrentine, editor-in-chief of CNet Reviews.

Want more on CES? See our roundup of everything you need to know from CES and our interactive chart of top CES product launches.

Follow our staffers live from CES in Las Vegas Jan. 9-12 on Twitter @Computerworld/CES or via our CES 2012 RSS feed.

Plus, check out our live blog from CES.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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