Female CIOs Rare in California, Study Finds

A study of the 200 largest publicly traded companies in California found evidence of a glass ceiling that's keeping women from reaching the highest executive ranks -- including CIO positions.

Only four of the companies had female CIOs as of last August, according to the study, which was released this month by the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. The researchers identified six women working as CEOs and 11 serving as chief financial officers. Overall, women accounted for just 8.2% of the 1,006 highest-paid executive officers at the companies that were studied, the researchers said.

"Women executive officers in California's largest public companies are a rare breed," the school's dean and two professors wrote in a jointly authored report about the study.

Katrina Ellis, an assistant professor of management who was one of the authors, said last week that the school plans to make the study a benchmark for year-to-year updates on the progress of women in the state's executive ranks.

"We want to point out that companies are missing out on opportunities if they're only looking at half the population to select their directors and executives from," said Ellis, who added that the results are similar to those of studies done in other states.

Ann Franks, CIO at Lanier Worldwide Inc., a $17.1 billion manufacturer of office automation equipment in Atlanta, said the California study "is really discouraging," especially given that state's technology leadership role. Companies have to include women in their leadership development pools to help address the kind of inequities found in California, Franks said. But she was perplexed by the low number of female IT executives found there.

She said she knows of eight other female CIOs in the Atlanta area, and she's involved in advocacy work to help women consider IT as a career and achieve leadership roles once they're in the technology field.

Overall, the percentage of women in the IT workforce declined from a high of 41% in 1996 to 32.4% as of 2004, according to a report released last year by the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va.

Increasing the number of women in IT would help improve their visibility to upper management, said Terrie Jones, founder and CEO of AGSI, an Atlanta-based technology management and consulting firm. The decision of many capable women not to enter IT "is very frustrating to me," she said. "IT is a great mommy track. If you are going to have a child, IT is very forgiving for you to come back into."

Carolyn Leighton, founder of Women in Technology International, a Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based professional development organization,

said that women need to promote themselves more. "Men have done this for many, many years, and part of being selected [for management jobs] is making sure that people know about you," she said.

Franks and other women involved in IT agreed that networking is important to high-level job prospects.

"We need to learn how to network like the men do," said Patricia Randall, an executive board member at the Society for Information Management and an account director at Kforce Inc., a professional staffing firm in Tampa, Fla.

The shortage of women in IT has become a leading issue for SIM, which began holding workshops on the subject around the U.S. last year.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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