This is the story of how a 19-year-old New Yorker became one of the most influential women in tech.
Her story is also a reminder of how, at the beginning of the last decade, the tech industry was grappling with a crisis: A young woman was joining the ranks of its most powerful and successful men, but her story was not getting the attention it deserved.
It took more than a decade for the woman in question to become the CEO of a tech company and become a leading figure in the industry.
In that time, her story became a cautionary tale for young women, who are often told by their peers to avoid the same path as their male counterparts.
This article is part of a series on the role of women in the global tech industry.
To learn more about the series, read “The Rise and Fall of The Tech World’s Next Generation.”
“I think a lot of the problems are because women are very comfortable speaking up and saying what they feel is the truth,” says Sheryl Sandberg, the co-founder of Facebook and a frequent participant in these conversations.
“Women are very open-minded and have a very open mind.
They like to explore what’s going on and they’re willing to speak up about what they think is going on.”
“There’s no question that we’re going to see more women in leadership positions,” Sandberg adds.
But there are also signs that the tech bubble has been inflated.
“I don’t think there’s a lot that’s changed in the last five years,” says Katherine Forrest, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Meyerson who was part of the team that hired Sheryl.
“The industry has grown so much and it’s gotten so much more complex and the talent pool is so much better.
But I think there is a big difference between being a woman who’s in a leadership role and being a senior executive.”
Women are still the majority of tech executives but, Forrest says, the industry is shifting.
The number of women running companies has more than doubled in the past five years, from 15 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2017, according to data from the Women in Technology Association.
“We’ve seen a lot more women join the workforce,” Forrest says.
“But there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for being a female CEO.”
And while women continue to hold the majority leadership positions, women still make up just about half of top executives in tech, according the Washington Post.
That means that, as Forrest says: “In the tech space, women are still a small minority.
It’s a small percentage, but there are a lot, a lot.”
For women like Forrest, it’s a struggle to keep up with the changes.
“It’s hard for me to go out there and make a change, to be the spokesperson for the industry and the world that’s just growing,” she says.
As Forrest puts it, “I’m like a child in a big sandbox.
I’m just a little girl.”
“You know I’ve got a daughter,” says Forrest, who is also the founder of the women-in-tech-industry group The Venture Alliance.
“And I don’t want my daughter to be like, ‘Daddy, Daddy, daddy, please, Daddy’ every time they see me in a picture.
I want her to see me doing things, being an entrepreneur.”
This article was produced by The New York Times’ Technology Desk.
A version of this article first appeared in the May 10, 2019, issue of New York magazine.