From style to substance

Thank you to Carla Guerra for her comment on the post about La DressCode. Her nomination of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg for our informal female style awards got me musing about another of my passions – the world of fast-growth entrepreneurs, especially game-changers and technology superstars.

There has been a heated debate for some time about the lack of women at the leading edge of technology in general, and in Silicon Valley in particular. I write about these things, and unfortunately it’s true. It’s a bit like the debate about women in the boardroom: some think it’s a result of Darwinian selection while others argue there’s a nasty, boys’ club culture that is off putting to bright, female geeks. (I find myself, as is often the case, on the fence and taking a position somewhere in the middle).

Ms Sandberg is chief operating officer of Facebook, hired in 2008 by Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the world’s most popular social networking site. She has held positions at the World Bank and US Treasury, is credited with building Google’s AdWords and AdSense programmes, and is a women with serious tech credentials – as well as knowing what to wear to work.

In a laudable attempt to highlight successful women in technology, we are all encouraged to blog about women we admire who work in this space on March 24 – which has been named Ada Lovelace Day.

Lovelace was, of course, the only child of Lord Byron, and a regular correspondent with the mathematician Charles Babbage, whom she met in 1833. Lovelace devised an encoded algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers for Babbage’s analytical engine, which is widely acknowledged to be the world’s first computer programme, albeit for a machine that wouldn’t actually be built for another 150 years.

Last year, JP Rangaswami, one of the most erudite chroniclers of the internet and its societal impact, wrote about Lovelace on his blog as he listed all the women who had inspired and helped him in his career.

In the post, Mr Rangswami, chief scientist of Salesforce and before that at BT, tips a hat to two women whom I happen to have met: Esther Dyson and Julie Meyer.

Ms Dyson is now primarily an angel investor, but was founder of EDventure, which sold to CNET Networks in 2004. She has managed to combine investing in companies such as Flickr, the photo-sharing site, and, the web bookmarking site, with weightlessness training for an eventual space flight and sitting on the board of WPP, the global advertising group.

Ms Meyer runs Ariadne Capital, the advisory and investment company, is a regular columnist for City AM, the London free sheet, and a frequent speaker on technology and entrepreneurship. She is also an investor on the BBC’s Online Dragons’ Den. She is well-known for co-founding First Tuesday, a networking organisation that brought together Europe’s leading lights of the first wave of internet entrepreneurs before the bubble burst in 2000.

Women who lead in the world of innovative technology, whether at the conception stage, like Lovelace, or at the global domination phase, as Ms Sandberg, are rare for whatever reason.

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen.

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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.