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» VIEW ALL POSTS Mar 11 2011   4:28PM GMT

Why aren’t more women in executive careers in IT?



Posted by: Wendy Schuchart
Tags:
CIO careers
women in IT

Tuesday was International Women’s Day. The United Nations‘ theme for 2011: “Equal access to education, training and science and technology.” Last week at the FusionCIO conference in Madison, Wis., a casual poll of the attendees list shows that the woman-to-man ratio was about 1:8. The girls playing with Teen Talk Barbie (the one that exclaimed “Math class is tough!”) back in 1992 are in the workplace today. Are they following a path to IT leadership, or do they still think that math and IT are tough?

At the conference lunch, this disparity became obvious when I sat down at a mostly empty table for eight. One by one, the seats were claimed by women until I joked to our one male dining companion that I hoped he wasn’t feeling like an “odd man out.” There were over 200 executives at that conference and only 40 of them women, and what are the odds that there would be a table with a seven-women, 1-man split? I’m hoping someone tells me in the comments because math is hard (just kidding)!

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, in 2009 women earned only 18% of computer science degrees. When the world’s first computer, ENIAC, was born in 1947, its programming team was comprised entirely of women. So what happened? Actually, the more interesting question is, why is it still happening? The problem may be stereotyping: Women are perceived to be better in nurturing fields, according to “Where are the Women in Information Technology?” But leaders with people skills will always be prized in IT, regardless of gender. The successful CIO manages the mechanical and the personal with panache.

As evolved as we are, we still have primitive instincts to band together. Whether it’s football teams or water-cooler talk, we negotiate an internal, inherent need to be with “people like me,” no matter who those people are, just like our ancestors did back when information technology was wheels and fire. We can look no further than the FusionCIO lunch room to see that theory in action, but if we continue to recruit and encourage women to come to the table, I am confident that it won’t be too long before Barbie is raking in the VC to support her legion of iPad apps.

Should we actively try to break this glass ceiling for women in IT leadership, or is it male-dominated for a reason?

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  • Elisabethntlqc
    the problem starts with changing young girls perceptions of IT at its most perceived to be difficult level, programming. It is being done by an 18 year old female named Geneveive L'Esperance who runs Gen INC. Check her video with James Cameron at Youtube: geninctv. When the industry starts supporting young women like this then you'll see the ranks change very quickly.
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  • Gophyl
    I have been in the IT business since 1974. For years I was the only woman. Through the years I advanced to Director of IT, but the CIO job was not in reach. There were 5 other directors in the IT Department and the politics included making others look bad so they could look good and shoot for the CIO ring. Now I work for a very small IT consulting company. We are on a big recruiting campaign. Not one of our candidates are women. Where are they?????
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