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Women techies may fare better at nontech firms

A new ranking says companies like American Express are doing better than Silicon Valley heavyweights at advancing women who work in technical roles.

Intel is one of a handful of tech companies on Anita Borg's ranking of best places for women techies.
Intel is one of a handful of tech companies on Anita Borg's ranking of best places for women techies.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you're a woman in tech, the best place to work might not be a tech company.

That's one of the main takeaways from a ranking published Thursday by the Anita Borg Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on women in computing and counts among its partners Apple, Google, Microsoft and others.

The institute's list -- the Top 25 Companies for Women Technologists Leadership Index -- singles out organizations for trailblazing in the realm of "recruiting, retaining and advancing more women in technical roles," the organization said in a statement.

Topping the list this time around are consulting firm Accenture, payroll and HR company ADP, insurance business Allstate, credit firm American Express, and health care services provider Athenahealth.

Though tech companies like Google, IBM, Intel and SAP appear, the report notes that nontechnology companies make up 76 percent of the list.

The reason could be twofold, said Elizabeth Ames, Anita Borg's senior vice president of marketing, alliances, and programs.

First, it could show the way tech is important in a variety of industries. Even a company not considered to be in the tech industry needs technical employees to build or maintain its systems.

Second, the tech world doesn't have the best reputation for inclusivity right now.

It "may have something to do with some of the culture we've developed in Silicon Valley," Ames said.

The topic of women in technology is gaining increasing attention, particularly as tech companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and more have started releasing breakdowns of their workforces while announcing efforts to improve their numbers. White men tend to make up most of the employees at these companies. In technical roles, women tend to account for less than 30 percent of the workforce.

To compile its list, the institute used data supplied by 60 companies regarding the recruiting and retention of women. This year the institute also considered programs and policies relating to areas like parental leave, flex time and leadership development.

"The only way to drive change and improve how many technical roles are held by women is not through popularity contests," Anita Borg Institute CEO Telle Whitney said in a statement, "but through data, measurement and accountability."

The report noted that while the average company size was 27,000 employees, the range spanned from 700 to 180,000, suggesting that improvement in the relevant areas is possible regardless of size.

Within the next few weeks, the institute will release a report with further insights gleaned from the collected data.