The geek mystique: 10 leading women in tech

These leaders didn't just rely on business acumen to climb the corporate ranks -- they also have serious tech chops

Men continue to dominate the IT field. In 2011, women made up 57 percent of the country's professional workforce but held just 25 percent of professional computing jobs, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Though the glass ceiling still exists, the business IT industry continues to witness positive change as rising stars join the ranks of prominent female IT pioneers. In this slideshow, we present 10 standout women who've made their mark in the business IT field by leveraging not just a shiny business degree, but deep technological expertise in areas like app dev, storage, mobile, and engineering.

Julie Larson-Green

With the departure of Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky earlier this month, Julie Larson-Green landed the lead role of Windows software and hardware engineering. She holds two degrees: a master's in software engineering from Seattle University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Washington University.

She's put her software engineering skills to good use during her 20-year tenure at Microsoft, starting off as a program manager for Visual C++. She has since worked on such products as the early versions of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office, contributing significantly to improving the products' respective user experiences. For Windows 7 and Windows 8, she was responsible for program management, UI design and research, and development for international releases.

Linda DeMichiel

Linda DeMichiel is a senior architect in the Java EE Platform group at Oracle and specification lead for Java Persistence 2.0 under the JCP (Java Community Process). Previously, she was the spec lead of JSR 220, responsible for launching and leading the initiative for EJB 3.0 and Java Persistence API. In 2006, she garnered recognition as the JCP Outstanding Spec Lead for Java SE/EE. Prior to taking on EJB, she implemented Sun's first object/relational persistence product; she also worked at IBM on object/relational extensions to both DB2 and the SQL99 standard. She holds a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer made headlines last summer when she took the top job at Yahoo, becoming the youngest Fortune 500 CEO in history. She didn't land that gig simply because of her business acumen; Mayer has serious technology chops. She graduated with honors with a bachelor's in symbolic systems and a master's in computer science. She joined Google in 1999 as the company's first female engineer. There, she donned an array of hats as an engineer, a designer, a product manager, and in her final years, vice president of search products and user experience and vice president of local, maps, and location services.

Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns secured the position of CEO at Xerox in 2009 and chairwoman of the company in 2010. She's the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company.

Burns started her career at Xerox as a mechanical engineering summer intern, then went on to hold several engineering positions. From 1992 through 2000, she led several business teams, including the office color and fax business, office network copying business, and the departmental business unit. From there, she landed the role of senior VP of corporate strategic services, then president of Xerox's business group operations in 2002. Come spring of 2007, she secured the position of president of the company. She holds a bachelor's from Polytechnic Institute of New York and a master's in mechanical engineering.

Jocelyn Goldfein

As the director of engineering at Facebook, Jocelyn Goldfein is charged with driving new product designs and architecture improvements, leading the teams responsible for the social networking site's key features, such as the news feed, search, and photos. Pre-Facebook, she served as a vice president of R&D at VMware, running the engineering and product teams for the company's desktop offerings. Her credentials also include a stint as director of engineering at email management startup MessageOne, as well as time as a software engineer at Trilogy. Goldfein holds a degree in computer science from Stanford University.

Anne Hardy

Anne Hardy is the VP of developer evangelism at SAP; she's been with the company since 2003, when she first took on the task of building the company's research center in Sophia Antipolis, France. She later moved to Palo Alto, Calif., to manage platform research for SAP Research Americas.

Pre-SAP, she was a software developer at Alcatel in Paris, where she designed and developed call processing features and protocols for various PBXes. She also had a seven-year stint at Nortel, first as a senior software engineer working on PBXes, then managing the company's Web technologies group. Hardy holds a master's degree in computer science from Ecole Nationale Superieure des Telecommunications in Paris and an MBA from EDHEC in Nice, France.

Diane Bryant

Diane Bryant has worked at chipmaker Intel for more than 25 years, starting in 1985 after earning a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from UC Davis. She went on to earn four patents as a mobile engineer in the early 1990s and later headed up the company's server business.

In her current role as vice president and general manager of the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group, she manages Intel's P&L, strategy and product development for enterprise and cloud server infrastructure, high-performance computing, storage, communications, networking, and intelligent connected systems. Prior to that, she was corporate vice president and CIO, responsible for the corporatewide information technology solutions and services.

Valentina Salapura

Dr. Valentina Salapura is an IBM master inventor and system architect at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, focusing on cloud computing in Big Blue's Services Innovation Lab, and in 2010, she was a co-lead at the IBM Research Strategy and Worldwide Operations team. She was a computer architect for the Power8 processor definition team, as well as technical leader for the Blue Gene program.

What's more, she's authored more than 60 papers and holds 50 patents on processor architecture and high-performance computing. She received her doctorate from Technische Universiteit Wien, Vienna, Austria, and she holds master's degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from University of Zagreb, Croatia.

Nora Denzel

Nora Denzel started at IBM as a software engineer for the company's family of storage management software products. She moved to marketing before going into engineering management, where she lead an array for storage-software-related projects. She later joined Legato Systems as senior VP of production operations, joined HP as the head of the company's storage division, then became senior VP heading the consulting and the software divisions. In 2008, she joined Intuit as a senior VP and GM of the QuickBooks Payroll business unit; from there, she became the company's senior VP of marketing, big data, and Intuit's Social Initiative.

Denzel holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from the State University of New York and an MBA from Santa Clara University.

Kim Polese

Kim Polese is a prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur, innovator, and business leader. As the founding product manager of Java at Sun, she led its launch in 1995 and went on to co-found and serve as CEO of Marimba, which pioneered Internet-based software management. She also held the title of CEO at SpikeSource, a provider of business-ready open source solutions. She currently serves as an adviser, board member, and investor, helping to found and scale a new generation of startup companies.

She received a bachelor's degree in biophysics in 1984 from the University of California, Berkeley and studied Computer Science at the University of Washington. She is a fellow at Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Engineered Innovation.