Tech can’t thrive without women, says Israeli-born Oracle CEO

Software giant building tech-focused school to encourage girls to study sciences

By
May 11, 2016 01:32
3 minute read.
SAFRA CATZ

SAFRA CATZ. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Business and technology will not thrive without greater participation from women, Oracle CEO Safra Catz said this week in Tel Aviv.

“We need everybody, the folks that are most interested and the best,” she told reporters at a conference Monday launching Oracle’s new cloud ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platform for businesses in Israel. “We can’t afford half of the population deciding they’re not interested and they’re not going to do it.”

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Without the creative and mental wherewithal of half the population, society will have difficulty solving its greatest challenges, she said.

“We are dealing with mathematical, technical issues, issues of physics that have not been solved before,” Catz said.

The Israeli-born Catz is one of just a handful of women leading tech companies in Silicon Valley (IBM, HP and Yahoo are notable exceptions), and is one of 20 women (4 percent) leading S&P 500 companies. In Israel, the situation is hardly better, with women accounting for just 6% of CEOs on the TASE, according to a 2015 study by CofaceBDI.

“When I was younger, I did not completely understand this whole ‘women’ issue because I was in advanced mathematics classes myself and I was typically the only woman and it never really bothered me. I didn’t notice,” said Catz, who joined Oracle in 1999.

“Then, when I was going to Wall Street and to law school, it didn’t occur to me too much to be involved in women-only events. I was wrong. It’s actually extremely important. Because it turns out that people in general often are uncomfortable when they’re the only one of a certain type and, as a result, they drop out before reaching their highest potential,” she continued.

Oracle, which has a market cap valuation of $164 billion, is building a tech-focused public school on its main campus to help encourage girls to study STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math.

Catz is confident of Oracle’s market dominance, breezily dismissing the giants that compete with it. Amazon Web services? Google Cloud? Microsoft Azure? SAP? Salesforce? They’re all in the game, she admitted, but aren’t in the same league.

“We have competitors at every level, but we don’t have competitors at all levels,” she said. “Nobody has everything.”

Oracle, which offers businesses software, infrastructure and platforms as a service for running their companies, invested heavily in research and development even through the dotcom bust, Catz said.

This prepared them to get into the world of cloud computing before the term even existed.

Not only did it devote billions to creating its own new technology, but it was savvy about buying up other technology.

As with many multinational tech companies, Oracle has found Israel to be a fertile ground for acquisitions, most recently shelling out half-abillion dollars for Ravello, a Ra’anana-based cloud-computing company.

“What happens in Israel it’s all about solving problems.

They never follow. Even when you beg them to!” she said. “As much as it can be annoying, it’s incredible and exciting.”

When asked to discuss Oracle’s acquisitions pipeline, Catz stopped to consider what has or has not already been announced – an indication that another announcement is in the works.

But Oracle has its critics, most recently over a lawsuit with Google concerning its android operating system.

Because Google used Java, owned by Oracle, to create its popular Android mobile-operating system, Oracle is suing for damages, saying it was a copyright infringement.

Though some argue that the suit could upend the culture of code-sharing that has underpinned the digital economy, Catz, who will testify in the latest trial, this week, disagreed.

“Exactly the opposite is true.

It actually encourages innovation, and innovation requires investment,” she said.

People who create software should be assured of their intellectual property, she argued.

Though many companies provide open source licenses to help foster innovation, she said Google chose not to use an open source Java license because, she suspected, it would have required it to put the android code it developed out in the open source market, as well.

“As much as Google would like to make it that they can just take someone else’s hundreds of millions and billions of innovation just because they’re Google, they can’t,” she said.

Jury selection for the trial was completed Monday in San Francisco.


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