What CIOs Have To Know About What Women Want In The IT Workplace

CIOs need to learn to listen to what women are trying to tell them
CIOs need to learn to listen to what women are trying to tell them
Image Credit: casipphotos

If there is one question that more and more CIOs are asking themselves, it’s what do women want at work? It turns out that the answer is the same things every worker wants: fair pay, flexibility and the ability to work on projects that fuel their passion and make a difference – not just in the workplace, but in the world at large. The person with the CIO job need to understand that if your organization also offers growth potential and boasts successful female role models on your leadership teams, then you’ve got a formula for attracting, hiring and retaining the best women technologists available today who can help the company with making use of the importance of information technology. CIOs have to understand how they can evolve their practices to foster an environment where women will both want to work and will thrive.

It’s All About Compensation (And Equal Pay)

Hey, it’s the 2000’s, do we still have to talk about this one? According research compensation always tops the list of what’s important to them for both women and men. In the survey’s that were taken only 39 percent of men surveyed said it was their top concern, 52 percent of women did — a likely result of the persistence of the gender pay gap in tech.

It has been more than 40 years after Equal Pay Act of 1963; however, white women still make 0.79 to a man’s dollar, on average. It gets worse – Black women, Hispanic/Latinas and Native American women make even less compared to a white male’s salary; 0.62 cents, 0.58 cents and 0.58 cents, respectively, to a white man’s dollar. There are reasons for this gap – often, women don’t negotiate as often or as successfully as men do, even when negotiating pay for the same job. The result of all of this is that women are disproportionately dropping out of the workforce to raise children, and are then facing obstacles to reentry. What the person in the CIO position is discovering is that women are consciously or unconsciously discriminated against. We are seeing that women also tend to leave the IT industry when faced with misogyny and harassment. It doesn’t matter why — a gender pay gap does exist.

Women Want Work/life Balance And Flexibility

The IT department is made up of many different groups who all want the same things: Millennials seek flexibility in the workplace, and more men are demanding flexible work schedules, paternity leave and perks that help balance work and family life, but the truth is that women are still responsible for the lion’s share of “second shift” responsibilities: child care, housework and the like, and are more likely to drop out of the workforce to care for children. Research shows that while work/life balance is a top concern for both women and men, women focus on flexibility in their schedules more than men do, with 24 percent of women saying this is a top concern compared to 16 percent of men.

A study showed that even when women return to work after having children, they often feel pushed out and unsupported; in fact, in the U.S., the lack of paid family leave and child care assistance is not only forcing women out of the workforce, it’s detrimental to their wages and potential earnings growth, too. What women want is flexibility — including remote work options, flex-time, paid leave and child care support. CIOs need to understand that this is key to retaining women in the workplace.

Make The Work That Has To Be Done Meaningful work

If CIOs want to retain the women who are working in their IT department, they need to realize that one of the top motivating factors for women in technology is the opportunity to do work that is meaningful. What this means is that their work has to have an impact not just on the company, but on end users and the local communities of which the company is a part.

Women want their job to have a mission. These women are incredibly smart, intelligent people who understand that their work and technology as a whole has big consequences for the local communities; it absolutely shouldn’t create more issues of inequality. What they want is to give back or ‘change the world’ in some way. CIOs who make an effort to give employees the chance to work on “passion projects” know that it is one way to keep them engaged and excited about the work they’re doing.

Women Want Opportunities For Advancement

CIOs who want to find ways to have their women advance need to realize that for working women, juggling career and home responsibilities can make advancement a secondary priority. CIOs have to make sure women and all workers, for that matter, have a clear path for career advancement as well as regular performance reviews and feedback. If done correctly, this can increase both retention and engagement.

It is critical to realize that one of the main reasons women don’t return to work after having children or after another major life event is the feeling that they’re not accomplishing goals, or that their contributions aren’t recognized or appreciated. If you add in the high cost of childcare and lack of family support and paid leave, it’s a recipe for low engagement, poor retention rates and high turnover. CIOs who ensure career-path transparency, necessary steps for promotion and advancement as well as continuous feedback can help address these issues.

What All Of This Means For You

Things are changing. Slowly but surely the role that women are playing in IT is starting to become recognized. It’s just that there still are not enough women working in the IT field. Today there’s a focus on the lack of women in computing. However, even with that being said, women still make up 23 percent of the field already, and it’s important to acknowledge what they have accomplished.

CIOs have to understand that there’s so many women who are doing incredible work, but they don’t get a ton of visibility, and sometimes that can be discouraging to other women trying to make it. CIOs need to provide their women workers with more visible role models and more attention to the companies and women who are working to change this in order to close this gap. It can be done, CIOs just need to start working on it today.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How do you think a CIO can make the IT department appear to be more attractive to women?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, it is your responsibility because of the importance of information technology to make sure that the company’s networks are kept safe at all times. This is a job that you cannot do by yourself – you need the help of everyone who works for the company. You need them to create secure passwords, change them on a regular basis, and keep them all secure. It turns out that this is actually fairly hard to do. The good news is that there are tools available to help employees do this. However, all too often the people who work for the company are unwilling to use these tools. Why is that?