Top open source, tech-smart, board-ready women executives

Many open source organizations and companies are already headed by women, but there are many others who are ready for the boardroom.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Technology, in general, and open source, in specific, is often seen as a boy's club. There's a lot of truth to that. In 2019, out of the 2,765 Morgan Stanley Capital International  All-Country World Index (MSCI/ACWI) companies, only 20% of directors were women in 2019.

That's a bad thing and not just for women leaders. Studies show that employee productivity is significantly higher for companies with three or more women on their boards. That means both higher profits and dividend payouts. As the Bloomberg editorial board recently pointed out, if companies really cared about doing what's best for shareholders they'd have more women leaders

Why?  Microsoft Ventures co-founder and Barn2Door COO James Maiocco has suggested it's because women "tend to be more professional and have better outcomes," rather than men who often act "like kids in a locker room," instead of "getting down to business."

Some open source organizations do get it. For example, the largest open source nonprofit by far, the Linux Foundation, has six women board members and is chaired by a woman, Nithya Ruff, who's also the Head of Comcast's Open Source Practice. Other open source organizations with strong women leaders include the Mozilla Foundation, with chairperson Mitchell Baker; the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), executive VP Ruth Suehle; the Drupal Association, with executive director Megan Byrd-Sanickil; and the Perl Foundation, with Allison Randal, well-known leader and board chair of the Open Infrastructure Foundation (OIF).

To help more qualified women get into the boardroom and the C-suite, FirstBoard.io, a network of highly qualified and diverse technology leaders announced its Top 50 listing of board-ready women in technology. 

The group represents some of the best and brightest female technology leaders from companies such as AWS, GitHub, HBO, Microsoft, Puppet, Salesforce, and many more. The Top 50 are exclusively C- or VP-level or Director level executives at public companies and have collectively managed 100 acquisitions worth more than $55 billion and nearly 20 Initial Public Offerings (IPOs). Besides open source, their domain expertise spans Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), security, cloud computing, IoT, FinTech, consumer tech, and streaming media. 

The Top 50 were carefully selected based on FirstBoard's strict criteria that includes both technical depth and operational leadership experience at startups, private and public companies. 

Firstboard.io Founder Rita Scroggin said, unlike other efforts to break the boardroom glass ceiling, these are women who are highly qualified and ready today. They don't need coaching or mentoring; they simply need the visibility often afforded to those already in a position of power to move into the boardroom.

Open-source leaders on the Top 50 include Abby Kearns, Puppet CTO and Lightbend Board Member; Sushila Sahay, Lightbend EVP Cloud, Engineering and People; Priyanka Sharma, Cloud Computing Foundation (CNCF) General Manager; Kiersten Gaffney, former Meosphere CMO; and Jennifer Cloer, CEO and Founder, Story Changes Culture

"The FirstBoard.io Top 50 showcases the best and most diverse executive-level talent in tech at exactly the time when a new level of collaboration in business and society is being called for," said Scroggin. "More than 40 percent of the Top 50 are women of color and all of these leaders bring diverse experiences from around the world and from different sectors to their board positions. I believe that diversifying company boards and leadership teams will be one of the biggest transformative energies to make the world a more equal and just place." 

"It's increasingly important for VC investors who take board seats to promote diversity and inclusion plans for their boards, and Firstboard.io's mission to bring female leadership into companies has helped my companies lead on this front," added Tyler Jewell, Dell Capital Managing Director.

I've had the pleasure of knowing most of the open source leaders on the Firstboard.io list. They're all exceptional people and would help any organization or company step up their business plans and execution.

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