Peggy Johnson, senior vice president, Americas and India, Qualcomm

Were it not for the enthusiasm of administrative staff from San Diego State University’s electrical engineering department, says Peggy Johnson, she would never have ended up in the tech space. Mistaken for a departmental student while delivering mail on campus to support herself as a business major, Johnson was collared by two secretaries and duly changed her course on the back of their sales pitch. Now executive vice president of the Americas and India for San Diego-headquartered Qualcomm, Johnson has been with the company for more than 20 years.

During that time she has been president of Qualcomm Internet Services and Media- FLo, and has overseen the development of the firm’s Brew mobile handset platform.

She’s careful not to characterise the shortage of women in senior industry positions as a problem, but argues that greater diversity is necessary throughout the sector. “There needs to be more of an awareness in the industry that diversity can contribute to the bottom line. And when that’s embraced we should see more women [in senior roles],” she says.

Anecdotally, she says, she has seen women in senior positions become frustrated with the deceleration of their ascent, which has led to a notable growth in female-led start-ups within the industry. If you can’t attain the most senior position, you can always create a new one.

“Leaders require a range of attributes and some—like collaboration and relationship building—are more readily associate with women,” she says. “Others, like decisiveness, assertiveness and persuasiveness, are traditionally seen as more male characteristics. You need all of them to be a good leader but they’re not always valued equally.”

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