Recently InfoWorld did a special report on women and IT, called, “Why are Women Exiting IT Professions?” The article series discusses the advantages of gender diversity, the importance of getting girls interested at the K-12 level, and the traits of women leaders in IT. It also cites several reasons for why women are leaving IT – which I’ll summarize and comment on here.
Women leave IT because it’s hard to have a family AND a successful career in IT. The timing of starting a family often coincides with owning a “big difficult tech project” at work, which is a necessary leadership experience for those who seek advancement. It’s a bit like the conflict for academics between starting a family and seeking tenure.
Carly Fiorina is quoted here advocating for flex time. It is the first time I’ve seen her quoted in a “diversity” article. (Perhaps there are others, but this is the first I’ve seen.) She mentions that companies have to instill accountability for diversity and measure it. I’m glad to see she’s becoming vocal on this topic.
Day care is also mentioned, in addition to flex time, as an important ingredient for retaining women. “74 percent of women executives have a spouse/partner who is employed full-time. By contrast, 75 percent of male executives have a spouse/partner who stays home full-time – strong evidence that, despite progress in attitudes toward domestic workloads, women still predominantly bear the brunt of striking a balance between career and home.”
WITI Founder Carolyn Leighton is quoted as saying that IT needs women because “women by nature are collaborative consensus-builders.” Others point out that women can multi-task. While this is all okay, I wish somebody would add that IT needs women because they are equally good technical thinkers and we truly need their innovative ideas.
There is a call to action here for senior women leaders to mentor young women who are early in their careers. By framing mentoring as a type of “activism,” the article highlights mentoring – long thought of as an intangible, “soft” investment – as a tangible form of retention that benefits not only its participants but the company as a whole.
Lucy Sanders is CEO and Co-founder of NCWIT.
Graphic courtesy of InfoWorld.