more girls allowed

Even female tech leaders need to follow more women on Twitter

Getty Images for The Moth

SpaceX’s Elon Musk may have a plan for establishing a new society on Mars, but his gender politics here on Earth have frequently come into question. On Tuesday, the PayPal magnate was criticized by Motherboard for not following any women on Twitter, implying the skewed demographics of his follow list reflects the overwhelming maleness of Silicon Valley at large. He wasn’t pleased:

Musk responded by following GQ’s Caity Weaver, who now joins the lofty ranks of Musk’s other follows, like Ryan Reynolds and Weird Al Yankovic. In a mocking interview at GQ, Weaver said she hadn’t even heard of him. (“Is he dating Miranda Kerr?”)

Musk’s Twitter is problematic, but he by no means is the only tech leader with a follow list that looks like a Boy’s Club. The Guardian reviewed the accounts of a few tech leaders and found that while they bested Musk, they still followed between two and eleven times as many men as women. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, follows 267 accounts, 238 of which appear to be men. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella follows 39 women, the most of any leader examined by The Guardian, but that is still half of 78, the number of men he follows.

The review demonstrates how men are vastly overrepresented in tech, being followed up to eleven times more than women. But, do the women at the top of these hugely powerful tech companies follow women as well? Not really, it turns out:

  • Angela Ahrendts, senior VP of retail at Apple, follows 19 women to 58 men.
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, follows 47 women to 132 men.
  • Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, follows 22 women to 54 men.

The same pattern reappears. The male-ness of tech CEO Twitter follows seems to transcend the gender of the tech leader. The most powerful woman bucking this trend is Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates foundation, who follows 86 women to 53 men. She’s also the only one following Beyonce.

Women at start-ups and smaller companies tend to have more gender balance in their Twitter follow lists. Start-ups struggle with a male-dominated culture and inequities in VC funding, but they are also coming up amidst a vibrant conversation on the importance of diversity in tech.

  • Lisa Falzone, CEO of startup Revel Systems, follows 70 men to 52 women.
  • Alexandra Cavoulacos, co-founder of tech and career advice site, The Muse, follows 150 women to 84 men.
  • Leura Fine, founder of design startup Laurel & Wolf, follows 58 women to 40 men.

In short, it’s not just male CEOs or even just CEOs who should follow more women in Twitter. Everyone in tech should follow more women on Twitter. And also Beyoncé.