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Ritu Favre is the first female CEO of a global fingerprint sensing company.

Her extraordinary career in technology includes multiple high-powered jobs in upper management. Now she encourages women to pursue careers in the male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM.

NEXT Biometrics is at the forefront of security-focused fingerprint sensing technology for credit cards. The publicly listed company is based in Oslo, Norway, with sales, support and development subsidiaries around the world including in Seattle and Silicon Valley.

Women comprise half of America’s college-educated workforce but they hold just 29 percent of science and engineering jobs and only 11 percent of executive positions at tech firms worldwide.

The number gets lower when you climb the ranks to CEO, as Favre has done as the first woman to head a global fingerprint sensor company, according to lifestyle publication Wag Magazine, which featured Favre in its October issue.

Favre worked 15 years at Motorola as a manager of manufacturing and business product operations before joining Freescale Semiconductor, where she worked for 11 years, earning titles of senior vice president and general manager. Prior to joining Next Biometrics, Favre was a senior vice president and general manager of the Biometric Products Division at Synaptics.

It seems Favre’s future was quite clear from childhood. Growing up in Arizona, she was just 8 years old when she realized she wanted to be an engineer, just like her dad.

She didn’t realize her education-focused upbringing was a bit unusual. She focused on STEM courses, graduating from high school at age 15 and college at 19 with an electrical engineering degree. This caused a bit of confusion with co-workers.

“I remember people would ask me, ‘Oh, are you a technician?’” Favre recalls. “‘Or ‘Are you an operator? Somebody that runs the manufacturing equipment?’ And I would say, ‘No, I’m an engineer. I actually have my electrical engineering degree.”

For five years, Favre enjoyed herself as a device engineer at Motorola, dealing with the physics of the transistors that make up semiconductor circuits.

“Motorola had a very strong commitment to diversity and really increasing the ranks, and having a more diverse culture inside the company,” she said. “I started to get a lot of opportunities to go up the management ladder, and then, subsequently, up the executive ranks.”

Did you get there because you’re pretty
Ritu Favre, CEO of NEXT Biometrics


As Favre moved up the executive ladder during the last five-to-eight years, she said realized how differently men and women were treated.

“I’m also non-white, so it was difficult for me to figure out exactly what the reason was,” she told Moguldom.

As the only female in the room trying to get her opinion across, Favre said she found that being emphatic was interpreted as being emotional or too aggressive. “If you don’t say anything, then you’re not speaking up and you’re meek because you’re a female,” she added.

There was a time when a senior staffer asked, “Do you feel like you’ve gotten to where you are because you’re smart or because you’re pretty?”

“It was very condescending and very insulting,” Favre said. “That was the first time I really felt like, wow, there’s something very bizarre here. It was very difficult to actually climb up. I
I had to be much more articulate, and I had to work almost twice as hard to try to get the same points across that some of my counterparts didn’t have to.”

When Favre thinks about the future of women in STEM careers, she thinks about her daughter, who called her recently to say she was struggling in calculus and felt stupid.

Women often feel more dumb than others, Favre said. She told her daughter to give herself a break. She’s taking the hardest level of math as a senior in high school. Everything will be OK.

After all, Favre was a young student in STEM herself.

The post Tech CEO On What It’s like To Be asked, ‘Did You Get There Because You’re Pretty?’ appeared first on Moguldom.