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How to Recruit and Retain
Women in IT
By Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CISM

There's an exodus of women underway in IT (Information Technology) - they come but they don't stay.

"The number of women in specific technical fields has remained flat or declined since the dot-com bust. Tech employment numbers as a whole have rebounded from the 2001 to 2002 downturn, but this isn't reflected in the number of women in the field today."

"Tech Workplace Climate Unfavorable to Women", Deb Perelman, 21-Feb-2008,eWeek

Why girls would want a career in IT

IT offers more lucrative pay than many fields. You can build a lasting career, that's always buzzing with something new.

"Information technology will be the ... brainware ... that underpins the aerospace, microchip, sustainability, manufacturing and bio-medical industries going forward."

"Pioneering Spirit", William C. Harris",TechConnect, Spring 2008

IT Jobs and careers provide diversity far beyond programming or engineering. IT relies on skills other than technology.

Why business needs females

Company performance is better in companies with more women in top leadership, according to data presented by Alice Eagley, a published social psychologist who spoke on "How Women Become Leaders" at an April Arizona Technology Council meeting in Phoenix.

Benefits of keeping talented women in the workplace:

  • Fills demand for technology talent in a growing knowledge economy where IT talent is in short supply. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that computer and math jobs will outgrow all other occupations through 2016.
  • Creates competitive advantage for the business

    "... What keeps organizations from becoming commoditized is intellectual and social capital."

    "Organizational Development, Questions for Covey", Stephen R. Covey, Training Magazine, Apr-2007

  • Keeps turnover costs down: "Turnover is the single largest controllable cost of doing business. Employee loyalty (or the absence of turnover) is the single highest factor correlated with customer satisfaction ... "Executive Guide: Hiring and Retaining Skilled IT Professionals", David Foote, of Foote Partners, SearchCIO, 2/2/06,

The IT department is being pushed up the food chain, according to Computerworld Canada's "IT Career Paths You Never Dreamed of", by Julia King on February 19. IT will be solving business problems, not technical ones.

Women possess skills needed for the future--communication, influence, and relationship building. These build bridges between IT and the business.

How to tap into your full talent pool

"It's key that companies encourage employees to learn new skills. Many of the women I work with now did not start in technology, but seized a training opportunity and translated those new skills into a new position."

Marnie Wilking, VP Information Security Management, Wells Fargo Bank

  • Build female networks and mentoring opportunities.
  • Create pipelines through succession planning and building bench strength.
  • Seek transferrable skills and hire beyond computer science grads.
  • Actively market the field in hiring and recruiting.

Get rid of IT stereotyping.

An FBI cyber security speaker at a conference last month opened up with this:

"We have guys working for us who have never kissed a girl."

Lose the predatory and condescending behavior being exhibited in today's male dominated IT environments, that is noted prominently in a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review.

How do we influence our females to want a technology career?

Parents create the greatest influence on their children's choices:

"In our day, we were encouraged to go into IT for the good jobs. I'm going to encourage my kids to go into biotechnology, not IT."

- Catherine Rando, Chief Technology Officer, First Credit Union

Wilking's young daughter is planning to go to Space Camp this summer, because 'I love science and space, even though it's kind of a boy thing.'

"Since I have never said anything to give her the impression that science is a 'boy thing,', she's picked this up in the media and school. It's crucial ... to encourage girls in math and the sciences, and help them tap that potential they have to make significant contributions to traditional 'boy things.'"

Help put a stop to the negative environment creating the brain drain and mass exodus. You can make a difference, one organization, manager, parent and person at a time, starting now.

Have a career question? Send it to me at DebbieChristofferson@earthlink.net

COMING NEXT: How to power up your resume to land the interview and job.

Debbie shares 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience across the US, Europe and Asia. She consults, speaks and writes on security, technology and career growth strategies.

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