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Women in EdTech: Find Out Who Is Bridging the Gender Gap in Leadership

By Cait Etherington
April 12, 2018

Despite widespread reports about women’s marginal location in tech and virtual absence from leadership and board positions, edtech is frequently depicted as one area in which women are making gains. There are certainly many startups with women founders and co-founders, but are women actually better represented on the leadership teams of some of the largest and fastest growing edtech companies? eLearning Inside News decided to take a closer look at women in edtech.

The first part of our investigation focuses on the leadership teams of nine of the largest edtech companies. Our investigation discovered that with few exceptions, the gender gap is still prevalent in the industry. With the exception of Coursera, which currently has gender parity on its leadership team, most of the companies we investigated have just as much work left to do as other types of tech companies.

As a point of comparison, earlier this week, Recode reported that in terms of leadership roles in tech, women occupy anywhere from 19% (Pinterest) to 36% (Lyft) of positions and on average occupy 22% to 28% of the top positions (this is currently the case at Uber, Google, Amazon, and Facebook). Our investigation discovered that edtech companies are not all that different, but there is at least one notable exception. While at least one company (Coursera) has achieved gender parity on its leadership board, several others report women occupying as low as 10% of leadership roles.

Companies with Gender Parity

Coursera

Key Facts: Co-founded by a woman, Coursera currently has gender parity on its leadership team.

Coursera, founded in 2012, not only has a woman co-founder, Daphne Koller (also the current co-chair of their board) but also is among the few tech companies that can boast about achieving gender parity on their leadership team. When contacted about this article, Coursera told eLearning Inside that at the executive level, they currently have more women than men in leadership positions (42% men versus 58% women). According to their leadership map, key players include Deanna Raineri in the role of Chief Academic Strategist, Julia Stiglitz as VP of Enterprise Solutions, Leah Belsky as VP of Global Enterprise Development, Shravanti Chakraborty as Head of People, and Anne Tuttle Cappel serving as General Counsel.

Companies Making Real Progress on Women in Edtech

Udacity

Key Facts: Udacity is edging close to gender parity on its leadership team.

When contacted for this article, Udacity told eLearning Inside that women currently represent approximately 30% of their executive leadership team. On their website, however, their numbers appear to be somewhat higher; they currently list four women on a leadership team of nine. Key players include Clarissa Shen, COO, Kathleen Mullaney, VP of Careers and People, Salwa Muhammed, VP Udacity Connect and Admissions, and Kristen Mellor, General Counsel.

Age of Learning

Key Facts: On its Curriculum Board & Academic Leadership team, Age of Learning currently has more women than men.

Age of Learning, founded in  2007, has yet to achieve gender parity on its leadership team, but they currently have a majority of women on their Curriculum Board & Academic Leadership team. In addition, when contacted about this article, Age of Learning confirmed that at the director level and above, women currently constitute 42% of the full management team and 29% of their content and product development team.

General Assembly

Key Facts: General Assembly currently has three women on their executive team; this constitutes 30% of the team.

When contacted, General Assembly told eLearning Inside that they currently have three women in leadership roles on an executive team of 10 (30%) and 22 women in other “leadership roles” (44%) organization-wide. This puts General Assembly on the map in terms of bridging the gender gap in leadership but still leaves them with some work moving forward. 

Companies With More Work Ahead

Duolingo

Key Facts: Women only occupy two out of eight seats on the leadership team at Duolingo.

Duolingo reports that 36% of its workforce is comprised of women. On the leadership side, however, women only occupy two out of eight leadership positions. When contacted for this article, Duolingo’s spokesperson emphasized that they are currently prioritizing efforts to bridge the gender gap organization-wide and seeing especially promising results in their recruitment of entry-level engineers.

Instructure

Key Facts: Instructure currently has one woman on its leadership team and one woman on its board, but gets points for being fully transparent about its gender gap and for signing the Parity Pledge.

Utah-based Instructure, which is best known for its Canvas LMS, appears to share a lot in common with other types of tech companies when it comes to gender. Instructure currently only has one woman on its leadership team and one woman on its board. In terms of broader leadership roles, however, there are currently six female vice presidents at the company. Jeff Weber, SVP of People and Places at Instructure, told eLearning Inside that Instructure recognizes their gender gap and now interviews female candidates for every open VP or higher role. Notably, Instructure also recently acquired Practice, a startup with a female co-founder, and she is now one of their vice presidents.

Blackboard

Key Facts: Blackboard currently has two women on a leadership team of ten members.

Blackboard, founded back when most people hadn’t even heard about online learning or learning management systems, currently has two women occupying leadership roles on a team of ten. Key players include Katie Blot, Chief Strategy & Portfolio Officer, and Denise Haselhorst, Chief People Officer. eLearning Inside was unable to reach Blackboard to confirm these numbers, so they are based on the leadership map posted on the company’s website.

HotChalk

Key Facts: Two women are part of HotChalk’s leadership team of twelve and no women currently occupy board positions at the company.

HotChalk currently has two women on their leadership team, both bringing expertise from the traditionally gendered professions of education and nursing: Mary Jane Pearson is the Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs, and Curriculum – Education and Julia A. Smith is the Vice President, Academic Affairs and Curriculum – Nursing. On the board, there are no women at all. eLearning Inside was unable to reach HotChalk for comment.

Knewton

Key Facts: At the leadership level, women are one in five at Knewton.

Knewton, which lists only a small leadership team of five, currently only has one woman on board (CFO Jennifer Grunebaum). eLearning Inside was unable to reach Knewton to confirm these numbers. 

While the nine companies profiled in this investigation represent only a small percentage of edtech companies, the profile of their leadership teams certainly does not offer strong evidence that women are making gains in edtech that outperform gains being made across the tech sector.  Future articles in this series will explore the overall representation of women in edtech and several woman-founded edtech companies.

Feature image by WOCinTech Chat; image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.