|Consumer Electronics Show, 2012|
A recent report by US law firm, Fenwick & West, shows that just 11 per cent of executive positions in Silicon Valley are held by women – and just 9 per cent of executive officers are female.
The report compares Silicon Valley companies with the S&P 100 where women comprise 16 per cent executive roles.
Female board members comprise 15.7 per cent of the total in tech firms compared to 20.9 per cent of S&P 100 companies.
While it has been acknowledged for at least a decade that in the west generally there is a dearth of women in technology, it was only last year when Google's head of human resources, Laszlo Bock, publicised the search giant's diversity figures in a blog that the true picture emerged. Only 30 per cent of Googlers are women and just 17 per cent of those in tech roles.
Google isn't alone. Last summer Apple released diversity figures for its employees worldwide and again just 30 per cent were women and only 20 per cent of its technical workforce.
Facebook, you might think, with its COO Sheryl Sandberg such an outspoken champion of the cause, must put on a better showing. You'd be wrong. Just 31 per cent of its employees are women, according to the latest statistics released last June. Men occupy 85 per cent of its technical roles.
Each of these companies expresses deep corporate disappointment and each of them has programmes targeted at improving the situation. This January the chief executive of chip maker Intel, Brian Krzanich, announced the company would be investing $300m to increase workplace diversity.
Bernadette Andrietti, Intel's VP for sales and marketing, EMEA, says, "If we look at who is using tablets, iPhones and other devices, women comprise an increasing proportion of that user base. We need women to be involved as developers of both chips and software if we are going to target this growing female market successfully."
It's not just a valley problem. Research by Gartner shows that the percentage of female CIOs across all industries and globally has remained static for a decade at about 14 per cent. The numbers are particularly poor in the EU where Gartner's figures show that only 11.2 per cent of tech leadership roles is occupied by women.
Tina Nunno, fellow at Gartner, attributes the poor European showing to "a traditional hierarchy with more institutionalised behaviour". Some unconscious "lean" towards men is a bigger cause of the problem than any overt sexism.
Andrietti says that at Intel the company is trying to change this by ensuring that hiring teams and shortlists include at least one woman "to help prevent a cycle of men hiring men in their own image".
Much is made of the low numbers of girls taking STEM and tech subjects at university, and there is little doubt that numbers are poor. New graduate intake at Intel, however, is now a balanced 50:50 across the genders.
"I am an example of a woman in leadership," says Andrietti, "with a microelectronics degree [from France's elite ESIEE]. "When I was studying just 5 per cent of those on the course were women; now it is 20 per cent."
Andrietti designed chips for seven years and continues to be responsible for the technical team as well as sales and marketing. However some may see her promotion from design to marketing all too typical of women's careers in technology companies, even when those women have an engineering background.
Visibility is a problem. While there are supernova achievers such as Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer in leading roles, there isn't visible female strength in depth.
Rather the public face of women in technology is represented by the ubiquitous 'booth babes' who grace - or should that be besmirch - the industry's top trade shows. Here's a slide show from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Female talent on show, sure, but it's not their brains that strain for attention.
Tech firms might do better to spend less on endless face-saving diversity programmes and more on replacing booth babes with geek girls.