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Where are all the Women?
By Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CISM

“My company hires 100 females and maybe 25 will remain. Once they get in this field, it’s a battle to maintain their self-esteem and remain competitive in a male-dominated field.”

- From an unscientific survey of women in technology, on what they love and hate and why our numbers aren’t growing.

Gardner predicts that by 2012, 40% of women will leave IT in a report on the gender gap in information technology. Firms risk losing women, in a SearchCIO December 5, 2006 linked article.

Women are seen as being natural fits in the global economy, with superior communication and technology skills. But they’re driven away by a power imbalance.

Women also control and influence 80% of consumer spending, yet in IT, 90% of services and products are designed by men.

Female strength in communication creates a differentiator in IT hiring, according to Forrester analyst Sam Bright in the same article. Executives will train for technical skills, but won’t hire without collaborative skills.

Computerworld supports this view in a July 17,2006 article on “Hot Skills, Cold Skills”, by Stacy Collette:

“The IT worker of 2010 won’t be a technology guru, … the most sought-after corporate workers may have no deep-seated technical skills at all.”

My experience shows the opposite. IT hires on technology skills as the major criteria, not soft skills. We should be moving to the front of the bus, but our numbers aren’t growing.

Are we denied opportunities and leave, or have young women failed to refill the pipeline?

Female interest in a computer science degree is the lowest since the 1970s. Bias and outmoded practices reduce the talent pool and women’s contribution, according to a September 18, 2006 Washington news release on math science and engineering in academia, at .

Women today receive more than 50% of science and engineering bachelors degrees, but these gains are not reflected in academia’s faculty. Even among doctorates, women hold only 25% of full-time faculty positions.

A lack of respect by colleagues was cited as the main reason women voluntarily left college faculty positions. Their research was devalued, they were given fewer opportunities to participate in collaborative projects, and they were held under a microscope.

In my own survey results, women repeated this lack of respect in a field of men. The 2000’s downsizing, outsourcing and off shoring also create a perception of limited growth.

It’s a detractor that IT always plays second fiddle, as noted by Christopher Koch in a CIO magazine blog on December 13, 2006, on the gulf between IT and business:

“Business groups are … defined as the top group because they control the relationship with the customer and that's where the money is.”

But most of us love our jobs--the constant change, challenge, and learning new skills, from my survey feedback. Women see endless opportunities for growth, a lower glass ceiling, and challenging lucrative careers that help shape the future.

“The tech industry is one of the best places for women to work in terms of pay, opportunities, and challenges. Yet women occupy only 20% of technology jobs and 11.1% of Board seats and Officer positions in Fortune 500 technology companies.” - According to the Alliance of Technology and Women (ATW).

So how do you produce change?

  • Create your own opportunities.
  • Become more engaged.
  • Get your girls into math and science early.
  • Serve as an ambassador and mentor other women, to promote technology careers and women.
  • Help others enter the field, excel, and break barriers down.
The Wall Street Journal on December 11, 2006 mentions the use of unisex flextime unisex, instead of stereotyping it to women.

Broaden your horizons by joining my virtual E-Mastermind Career Circle! The first 10 sign-ups join at no cost for this February beta launch.

For an executive summary of the women in technology survey, send email with the subject “women survey” to DebbieChristofferson@earthlink.net

Coming Next: How do you reach the top pinnacle, if that’s where you want to go? Join us next month and start climbing!

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