Obama’s next technology guru may be this staunch supporter of women in tech

August 29, 2014
August 29, 2014

Megan Smith, a former Google executive, is a top choice for the role of the White House’s chief technology officer, Bloomberg reported today. If Smith takes the job that would mean the third person to hold the position created by president Barack Obama in 2009 would be a woman, a notable milestone given the gender imbalance of the US tech scene.

Smith has been an ardent and vocal supporter of women in technology, including the industry’s need to celebrate the “lost history” of little-known female tech pioneers and companies need to set diversity goals. “Find what you’re passionate about,” she encouraged women interested in technology in a video by WHO in April. “We’re trying to do things that radically improve the world,” she said.

The chief technology officer’s remit is finding ways to use technology to do things like create jobs and lower the costs of healthcare, according to a speech by Obama in 2009. Here’s what we know about Smith so far:

  • The 49-year-old was most recently vice president of Google’s X lab and oversaw acquisitions like Keyhole in 2004, a digital mapping tool that was critical for the development of Google Earth. She also led the company’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, and was a cohost for a a forum for Google executives, scientists and industry leaders.
  • Before Google, Smith was the chief executive officer of a site for gay and lesbian internet users Planet Out.
  • She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was part of a student team that built and raced a solar car 2,000 miles across Australia.
  • She married re/code technology columnist Kara Swisher, but the two are now separated.
  • According to Smith’s Twitter profile, she seems to worry about California’s draining water resources and is interested in Africa, philanthropy, and robotics competitions.

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