Technology needs new role models. It has been almost 100 years since women were granted the right to vote in the United States but we are still lagging behind in so many ways. In IT, women are still very much in the minority. In Infrastructure, it is not uncommon to see ratios as low as 10-20% female. Only 14% of CIOs are female. 14%. And that number has been stagnant for a decade per Gartner. It has been almost 100 years since women were granted the right to vote in the United States but we are still lagging behind in so many ways. In IT, women are still very much in the minority. In Infrastructure, it is not uncommon to see ratios as low as 10-20% female.
While there has been much progress in the recruitment of women into the field, Bruce Upbin’s article and Hector’s June blog state it best: “the tech sector needs more women.” Technology is rapidly expanding and impacting the global economy. Since 51% of the world’s population is female, it is important and necessary for women to be fully represented and influential in these fields.
Where are our role models? A lot of press you see about women rising through the ranks of technology are looked at through a different lens. When Melissa Mayer was announced as CEO of Yahoo, her maternity leave was also announced (and that maternity leave was scrutinized; everyone seemed to have an opinion in regards to how long or how short it should be). We also have to question whether Yahoo’s decision to eliminate telecommuting would have been as heavily scrutinized had it been made by a male CEO. When I discussed it with my peers, we always book-ended the conversation with phrases like “as a woman, you think she would understand how important the flexibility is…” You get my point.
I have been fortunate enough to work for many strong female leaders who were instrumental in shaping who I am today. In my final year of graduate school, I met Susan Sheskey though a chance encounter at the Association of Information Technology Professionals. She became one of my greatest role models, my VP at Dell, and later, the first female CIO of Dell. I’ve also been fortunate to meet and work with many other inspiring female role models during my professional career, CIOs Andi Karaboutis and Angela Yochem, to name a couple.
We should all ask ourselves “How can I be a better role model to women either in or considering entering the IT field? “
- Be a mentor. Either participate in a formal mentoring program at work or simply be aware of the impact of those “chance encounters”. If someone approaches you wanting information about what you do and how you got there, always make the time to have the conversation. If she seeks your counsel, be thoughtful in your advice and understand the influence you may have on her future career.
- Give people a chance. Unlike accounting and other fields, the vast roles and responsibilities in IT can align to numerous majors. I have hired and worked with everyone from English majors to Nuclear Physics majors. They all offer a different perspective and every single one of them will enrich your existence in some way.
- Proactively seek out opportunities to educate others. Determine how to best influence the next generation – volunteer in a local youth organization, host a Hackathon, or be a guest lecturer at your alma mater. I recently had the opportunity to attend a Women in Engineering Program dinner at the University of Texas. While a number of the women there were pursuing electrical and mechanical engineering degrees (Go girls!), many of them had not considered entering the IT field. I hope a few hours with me changed their perspectives.
The lessons from the late, great Robin William’s character in Dead Poet’s Society was not simply “Carpe Diem” but also the importance of inspiring the next generation. I think this is especially important for women in IT. Please join me in inspiring the young women you know to consider IT as a potential career and supporting the ones that do join by helping to cultivate their careers.