Making IT Work

Four women tell how they've survived and flourished in the IT culture.

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At L.L.Bean, Lamberth says, women are definitely not in the minority. Her boss is a woman, and of the eight-member leadership team in her division, only two are men. I sit in an awful lot of meetings that are exclusively women, she says. Within our own department, the glass ceiling appears to be broken. Its easy enough to find female friends and mentors. Of places that I have worked, I would say that L.L.Bean appears to me to be the most neutral in terms of gender being a factor in a persons ability to get work done or advance in the organization.

Advice: Women in senior IT positions have grappled with issues similar to yours. Find a woman in a leadership IT role who can be your role model or mentor.

Katy Dickinson

Robin Beck

CIO

University of Pennsylvania

Robin beck has found that making IT a good place for women is less about establishing policies than it is about creating a culture where people can be honest and clear about their priorities. Beck feels that people work best when theyre not stressed and worried, which makes it incumbent on individuals to be honest about the accommodations they need to make their lives work. Its difficult at times for women to have the courage to say, I need help, she notes.

Such a culture didnt always exist for Beck. Sixteen years ago, she worked at several business units of General Electric Co. They had wonderful benefits, but one business in particular was very hierarchical and male-dominated, she says. The culture didnt support your taking advantage of those benefits.

When she came to the University of Pennsylvania, where the current balance of IT workers still favors men, she was excited about the prospect of working for a female boss. Now, she wants to help the younger women coming up the ranks. Actually, I want to mentor and coach all the bright people in IT, she says.

As part of that coaching, she tells women to get past feeling defensive about the male-dominated IT world. Case in point: sports-centered small talk. You go into a meeting, and it starts with a discussion of whatever sport was on TV that weekend, and instinctively I dont have much interest in that, Beck says. But I remind myself all the time that its just the icebreaker. You have to peel back the onion and see whats really going on.

Advice: Be very clear with your employer on your priorities and the schedule that works best for you. The same goes for your family. Ask them for help in making changes that will work better for you. For many women, it takes courage, personally and professionally, to tell people you need help.

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer in Newton, Mass. Contact her at marybrandel@verizon.net.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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