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Why The Most Disruptive Force in Tech is Women

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Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.

In the old, testosterone-driven world of technology, alpha dogs waged war to achieve high-flying personal success in epic Gates-versus-Jobs conflicts or Art of War photo ops of Larry Ellison. But guess what happened to our gladiators on the way to the Coliseum? Teamwork took hold in an industry where groups of workers are now more likely to rely on one another to move projects forward through collaboration rather than competition.

This new paradigm has opened ears to women's voices in the traditionally male-dominated tech field. In this new world order, women are finding opportunities and rewards by offering perspectives that build out more diverse -- and successful -- high tech companies. In fact, 2013 could very well be labeled the Year of the Woman in Technology.

Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg certainly made the case. Her best-selling book aside, Sandberg helped lead an astounding rebound after Facebook embarrassed itself in its 2012 IPO. Sandberg and team rallied, leading a $1.3 billion turnaround that triggered a 19 percent jump in Facebook's stock -- adding $12 billion in value overnight after its most recent earnings call.

Or consider Marissa Mayer, whose tenure at the helm of Yahoo has nearly doubled the company's stock price in a little over a year. Ten percent of new hires are former Yahoo employees now eager to return to their former employer. And Mayer is growing Yahoo's user base while staking the company's claim in the mobile world. Yahoo now boasts 800 million active users, representing 20 percent growth since Mayer took the reins.

And while these are two of the most prominent women in tech right now, many others are on the rise, making themselves known at the top tech companies, including Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Pinterest and Facebook. And demand for women in tech jobs is up. While women currently make up less than a third of the IT landscape, they filled 46 percent of new tech jobs in the first quarter of 2013.

Other women are setting out on their own, as the founders or CEOs of their own tech startups. Leah Busque, for example, left her job as a software engineer at IBM to found what would become TaskRabbit, an online marketplace where anyone can outsource chores, errands, and other small jobs. The company has raised more than $35.7 million in funding, and attracted some 13,000 people in 14 U.S. cities to complete tasks.

It turns out women entrepreneurs have a strong track record. Among the 125 most successful tech startups of the past decade -- those with IPOs or M&A deals surpassing $50 million -- 200 women were founders or cofounders. And get this: women-operated, venture-backed high tech companies average 12 percent higher annual revenues than those run by men. They also use a third less capital to achieve those results.

So, have the barriers crumbled? Well at MIT, 45 percent of the sitting class is women and 41 percent of Harvard computer science majors are women. Anomalies, you say, swayed by lofty standards that allow for the easy pick of the best and brightest female technologists in the world. That might be true, considering that women still only account for about 18 percent of all bachelor's degrees earned in computer science. Still, the number of women in the IT field surged 28 percent between 2011 and 2012.

While still the outliers, Sandberg, Mayer, Busque, and the women CEOs of dozens of startups stand in direct opposition to the brogrammer mentality that has afflicted too much of high tech for too long. They offer high-profile role models for the women the tech industry needs if it truly wants to further diversify and expand perspectives that lead to innovation.

Right now, the competition for technical workers has never been greater. And smart tech companies should be looking to fill the skills gap with an eye to emerging, collaborative, and diverse workplaces where women have as much of a say as men. But to get there, we need to recognize women's contributions to tech and business, encourage more women to pursue and stick with tech careers, and pave the way for the women tech titans of tomorrow. It will take a concerted effort. But the result -- achieving a diversity of perspective that informs both new technology and the businesses behind it -- would make women the most disruptive force in tech.

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