Women in technology are scarce, holding only about 25 percent of all computing occupations; a number which has been declining since 1991 (according to the Women in Tech: The Facts, 2016 Update by Ashcraft, McLain, and Eger). But don’t lose hope! Women can dominate the tech field, and one woman in tech has risen to the highest possible tech position in our country: Megan Smith, the third chief technology officer of the U.S.
Smith was born in Buffalo, New York in 1964. Her school made the science fair mandatory for students, and in a 2014 interview with NPR, Smith said, “Many kids went on [to] STEM related careers because as a kid we got to try it. It got me to learn that it was fun, it mattered.”
She followed her childhood interest to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she completed her B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1986.
While working on her degree, she also participated in the varsity swim team, the varsity sailing team, the solar car team (which competed in the Australian outback in 1987), and even served as the MIT Athletic Association president.
In 1988, she finished her master’s in mechanical engineering, working as a researcher in the MIT Media Lab.
Smith’s career kept her at the forefront of technology from the start. After graduation, she took a job with Apple Japan working on multimedia and HyperCard development. In 1990, she joined General Magic, Inc. working on early smartphones. A 1992 video shows Smith, then vice. president of General Magic, demonstrating a bulky prototype for the touch screen.
In 1996, Smith took a position with PlanetOut Inc. (now Here Media), an online media company dedicated to serving the LGBT community. Smith stayed with the company for nearly a decade, serving as chief operating officer and chief executive officer, and later vice president of PlanetOut Partners Inc.
Smith joined Google in 2003 as vice president of New Business Development, where she was responsible for the acquisition of Google Earth and Google Maps. She became vice president of Google X in 2012.
In 2014, Smith spoke at the White House’s first LGBT Tech and Innovation Summit. Later that year, President Obama appointed her the third ever and first female U.S. chief technology officer. Created by Obama in 2009, the CTO is responsible for helping the administration “harness the power of technology, data, and innovation to advance the future of our nation.”
As U.S. CTO, Smith helped bring senior tech talent to Washington and advised Obama on the best practices for policy makers, including keeping net neutrality.
Smith stepped down from her position in January 2017, and now serves as chief executive officer at Shift7.
She’s also a mother of two.
Women in tech may be hard to find, but, like Megan Smith, many are bosses of the industry.
Smith joins women such as Anjali Joshi— the vice president of product development at Google, Rapelang Rabana— the chief digital officer at BCX, and Jean Liu— the president of Didi Chuxing, in showing us that women can in fact run the world.
Are you interested in empowering women in the STEM fields? The Women in Science (Wi-Sci) group wants you! Meetings every Monday in the Women’s Center, 2 – 3 p.m.