Meet Megan Smith, The 1st Female Chief Tech Officer At The White House

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Technology is typically an industry that has been male-dominated for quite some time. When we talk about pioneers of the digital age, names such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg often get bandied around. But ever since Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, wrote and released her best-seller ‘Lean In’, there has been a shift in the tide of what role women play in the tech field.

Companies such as Google are investing heavily in future female tech prodigies by teaching coding classes. Many tech giants have also been releasing new diversity reports over the past 6 months, showing there is a vast gender and diversity gap that needs to be closed across the board. Between 30-39% of staff at companies such as Google, Yahoo, Linkedin, Facebook and more are women, and the percentage is even less when it comes to management and specific tech positions. Yikes!

By now we’re sure you are familiar with the saying “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Well in the spirit of that statement and the need to change the representation of women in technology comes a major announcement that may start to change this in a drastic way. The White House just announced former Google executive Megan Smith (who oversaw the acquisition of photo-sharing site Picasa, and was also the VP of Google’s Google’s X lab – the top secret part of the company’s ‘Googleplex’) will be the new Chief Technology Officer, making her the first female to be appointed that position.

This is a major step forward in eliminating gender bias in the industry and the White House have definitely picked the right person for the job. She’s just just a woman at the top of her tech game, she is also the brains behind Google’s ‘Made With Code’ initiative mentioned earlier which seeks to encourage young girls to get interested in learning how to code.

 


One reason so few young women pursue careers in tech is that they lack visible role models. “There are 2 to 3 million women programmers in the world. We need to see them more,” Megan said in an interview with Wired Magazine earlier in 2014.

The role of the White House CTO is a fairly new position, created only 5 years ago. The previous CTO, Todd Park, was responsible for the Healthcare.gov website when “Obamacare” became available to all US citizens. According to The White House blog, in her new role, Megan “will guide the Administration’s information-technology policy and initiatives, continuing the work of her predecessors to accelerate attainment of the benefits of advanced information and communications technologies across every sector of the economy and aspect of human well-being.”

The Washington Post reports that Megan also has a record of focusing on digital inclusiveness. Before Google, she was the CEO of the online LGBT community PlanetOut. And she has worked to bring more women in the engineering and technology fields, including through the company’s WomenTechmakers program.

Megan’s role as CTO is also a step forward for the US Government which is focusing on improving using new technology. But her mere presence will also signal the progression of the industry as a whole, showing young girls that tech isn’t just a boys club anymore. It is an industry fit for anyone willing to work hard, and the opportunities are out there for the most qualified, regardless of gender.

We’re excited to see the impact Megan Smith will have on the US Government in her new role. If her impressive record at Google is anything to go by, we should all be waiting with baited breath for some exciting things to come.

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