Women In IT: What’s The Current Score?

by drjim on May 18, 2009

Women Are Making Progress In IT, But There Is Still Work To Be Done

Women Are Making Progress In IT, But There Is Still Work To Be Done

How many women work in your IT department? Is your CIO a woman? The answer to the first question is probably “not that many“, and the answer to the second is all too often “no“. We’ve been aware that this is an issue for awhile, how are we doing on addressing it?

How Do Women Feel About Working In IT?

One of the best places to start when we are trying to figure out where things currently stand, is to ask the women who are currently working in IT how it’s going. Rob Preston over at InformationWeek did some data collection and he discovered a study on this topic that was released by a women’s professional organization called Catalyst.

The study revealed that women working in the IT field were basically satisfied with both their jobs and where they worked. However, there are still big issues when it comes to how they interact with their bosses, how fair they think decision making is, and how much of an opportunity they have to participate in planning.

How Many Female CIOs Do We Have?

We’ve got more today than we had 5 years ago; however, there are only about 75 female CIOs in InformationWeek’s top 500 companies (that comes out to be about 15%). This list includes:

  • Kathy Owen – Unum
  • Marina Levinson – NetApp
  • Beth Perlman – Constellation Energy
  • Leslie Jones – Motorola

There’s been improvement, but there is still a long way to go.

What Tech Companies Do A Good Job Of Promoting Women?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Any company can talk a good line about how much they support diversity; however, promoting someone into the senior management ranks means that you think that they have the best chance of driving revenue. Here’s how the familiar tech names stack up:

  • HP – 21% of senior executives are women
  • Oracle – 18%
  • IBM – 13%
  • Google – 13%
  • Cisco – 11%
  • Microsoft – 11%
  • Dell – 0%

Oh my – did you see that Dell number? There is no excuse for that – women make up too much of the total IT workforce today for any company to be that unbalanced.

The Next Steps

So should IT departments start to institute mandatory gender based promotions so that 51% of their senior staff are female? No, that’s not the correct solution. In the end, what we all want is the best people leading the company independent of gender.

IT may always be just a bit “male heavy” because of the nature of the beast. However, for any company to succeed, you need to make sure that everyone has a chance at the top spots and you need to make sure that you have a bench of capable employees that is made up of all genders. That’s the secret to real long-term success.

Does your IT department have a balanced number of men and women leading it? Do you feel that women have an equal shot at senior management positions? What does your firm do to prepare workers to become senior managers? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Simon Stapleton May 18, 2009 at 8:26 am

Great post, backed up with sound research.

There is still a way to go…. but what will be the answer?

I wonder if we’re still caught in the ‘generation gap’, moving away from IT being a ‘male industry’ of old towards it being a gender-unspecific business practice? What I mean is, just because the industry wants it, it doesn’t mean that we can have it straight away.

I am sure that both sexes would prefer not to undergo some form of affirmative action to balance genders, but rather start (or continue, depending on your own organization) to ensure there is equal opportunity. The ‘equal opportunity’ needs to start right at grass-roots – the junior positions – upon which stripes can be earned in order to reach C-level.

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