Hillary Clinton is not officially in the 2016 race, but the former secretary of state is already building a powerhouse digital team led by women – just in time for her planned presidential announcement this Sunday. The latest addition to the all-but-declared Clinton campaign is Google executive Stephanie Hannon, who was hired Wednesday to be her chief technology officer. A Google spokesperson confirmed the hire, first reported by The Washington Post, but added the company did not have anything further to share.
Hannon won’t be the only woman in the top ranks of Clinton’s tech operation. The newly-formed team includes Digital Director Katie Dowd, a veteran of the State Department's digital team and the former Director of Digital Strategy at the Clinton Foundation, and Deputy Digital Director Jenna Lowenstein, the former Digital Director at EMILY's List. But it's Hannon who will become the first woman to ever hold the position of CTO on a presidential campaign, marking another historical moment in Clinton’s potentially glass ceiling-breaking candidacy.
The skills Hannon brings from Google will be critical as the Clinton camp looks to collect, house and analyze massive amounts of voter information – a Big Data strategy that helped catapult President Obama to reelection over Mitt Romney in 2012. Hannon, whose current title is "Director of Product Management, Civic Innovation and Social Impact,” doesn't have any direct election experience. But her resume does include working with cities to apply technical solutions to issues like voting result transparency and connecting people within communities during natural disasters.
Clinton's decision to hire Hannon is also a big deal in the tech world, which has struggled for years with gender discrimination in hiring and in the workplace. Earlier this year, Clinton took the industry to task in a keynote address at a women’s tech conference in Silicon Valley, in which she called on women to "bump your heads on the glass ceilings that persist in the tech industry.” She went on to quote former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, saying, “there is a special spot in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Although the number of women earning college degrees has surpassed men, the share of computer science degrees held by women has actually declined dramatically in recent years, falling from 37% in 1984 to 18% in 2011, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The implications of Hillary Clinton’s new hire from Google HQ could be huge, should Hannon succeed at improving on the innovations made by Obama's tech team in 2012. But the implications for women working in tech and young girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers are already very real: Hillary Clinton has given a woman a senior tech role for which she is well-qualified, helping open the door for other women in an industry that has long been a boys club.
Women in tech can revel in the satisfaction that, for once, there’s now a girls club, too. And they are leaning in before the race has even begun.