What IT Women Want
A virtual roundtable of high achievers talks about what today's women bring to IT and what they expect in return.
Computerworld - Last month, a panel of highly successful businesswomen met in Morristown, N.J., to discuss the current environment for women in IT and its effect on recruiting, retention and women's careers. The forum was sponsored by the New Jersey chapter of the Society for Information Management, and it drew one of the biggest crowds in that chapter's history. Seven of the participants agreed to meet again, virtually, with Computerworld's Kathleen Melymuka.
As we enter the 21st century, what's new about the problems of women in IT?
Weaver: Now that IT is evolving to focus on information technology as an enabler of business, it's becoming more conducive to women's being able to embrace IT and excel. Now it's about understanding the business and delivering technology to help enable and grow the business versus "Here's the next new box to deploy."
Scites: IT used to be so much of an individual contributor world, but that world is changing. Every operation is a team operation. There are multiple disciplines for IT and many ways in which women can succeed. But the fundamental issue for women is that very few are going into IT.
Walk: By 2012, computer professionals will be 11% of the total work population in the U.S. By 2031, we will have a 35 million-person labor shortage. In 2030, women in management and professional occupations will be 54% of the workplace. We'll have a huge need to develop women in all professional groups.
Of everything that was said at the SIM panel, what surprised you the most?
Scites: That we were having this discussion in 2005. I've been involved for 30 years as a female leader, and the fact that we needed as an organization to do this just speaks volumes. The good part is it was wildly successful, so obviously, we touched a nerve.
Do IT organizations "get" women?
Walk: No. It's still a good-old-boy network. Women have a hard time being heard in the technical arena. If they have ideas, they're not accepted very quickly. If they want to talk about a better way of solving a problem, they're shut down.
Shand: One of the big problems is they don't ask what they need to do to attract women. If I get a call from a client and there's a crisis, but the next call is the nurse at my child's school, am I going to hop on a plane and fly to Chicago or get in the car and drive to the school? Many women would choose to go to the child. If society wants women to make that choice, how do we handle that in terms of our need to excel in our careers? That's why lots of women are opting out.