When women rule the world

INTERVIEW Anita Borg, a researcher with Xerox Corp.'s Palo Alto Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif., is a leading advocate for the advancement of women inB technology careers. She founded the nonprofit group Institute for Women in Technology (www.iwt.org) and leads technology idea workshops for women nationwide. Recently she spoke with CIO about the role of women in corporate America, 20 to 30 years down the road.

Q: If, in 20 years, there are as many women as men at the executive level, how will that affect management and corporate culture?

A: Women will change the corporation more than we expect. I think that eveen today, an awful lot of women still need to be "one of the boys" in order to succeed. And the range of behavior that's acceptable for women in those positions is still considerably more narrow than it is for men. When half of the Fortune 500 CEOs are female, the top- level meetings across corporations will have a different feel to them. Leaders of the future will have to be visionary and be able to bring people in -- real communicators. These are things that women bring to leadership and executive positions, and it's going to be incredibly valuable and incredibly in demand.

Q: Do you think women will have a big impact on the types of products and services that companies are going to deliver in the future?

A: Women's markets are dealt with very stereotypically right now. Having lots of women in senior leadership positions may lead to a more reality-based perception of women's markets. The way we view women as consumers of high-tech stuff will be open to change if women are there throughout the corporate hierarchy.

The women I have met who are starting companies are often more committed to the end vision of the company, of actually making that product or service happen and getting it out. I am very distressed by the tendency in Silicon Valley for people to create companies with the primary goal of being bought, not of providing a service or a product. The idea is to get it far enough that somebody will buy you, and who the heck cares what they do with it down the road. With women, the reason they're doing it is because there's a need. They can create a company that both pays salaries and makes some money for folks but meets a need. And that, for me, matches another perspective, which is that women frequently think of things they buy in terms of tools rather than toys -- whether it's a computer or cosmetics.

This story, "When women rule the world" was originally published by CIO.


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