by Chloe Dobinson

How businesses can increase gender equality in IT |The rise of female CIOs sees a 9% increase of women in the boardroom

Jul 08, 2016
CareersData CenterIT Strategy

There are more women in leading IT roles than ever before, with CIOs who are female making up 16% of the 2016 CIO 100.

In the past year there has been a rise of 9% in female members joining the board, according to Gartner. CIO UK takes a look at how women are increasingly influential in the IT executive role and how businesses can increase gender equality in what is traditionally a male domain. See also: leading CIOs who are female.

Developing skills and learning on the go

Women in technology are driving change across different sectors in the enterprise, taking up additional roles as a CIO and gaining an edge in their male counterparts.

Female executives who are working their way up the career ladder include 2014 CIO 100 winner Christina Scott. The former Financial Times CIO was given further responsibilities as the Chief Product and Information Officer. These customer-facing roles have led to a development in IT with the CIO having a better understanding of the customers and the overall product.

Stability to success – Women working their way up the career ladder

Female executives tend to stay with an organisation for a longer employment period, going through the ranks and reaching the C-suite. This is compared to males who rather job-hop to gain higher salaries and responsibility.

Stepping up in the career ladder requires CEO engagement as this helps contribute to a senior role. According to a recent report 52% of the female executives who were surveyed have frequent meetings with the CEO, leading to a better understanding of the business, leadership skills and networking opportunities in becoming a CIO. The skills gained from board meetings have led to women being more successful in getting budget increases. In 2015 female CIOs expect to increase their buidget by 2.4% compared to male of 0.8%.

How businesses can increase gender equality in IT

Erasing gender equality

The recent appointment of CIO Lori Beer for J.P Morgan is evidence of a trend in females working their way to the top of the executive table. Beer’s role will see her oversee 10,000 IT employees demonstrating her experience and understanding of the business while driving the transformation of technology.

CIO 100 judge and columnist Ian Cox said about the 2016 CIO 100: “The increase in the number of female CIOs in the CIO 100 is to be welcomed” but women are still “under-represented in the profession”.

The mold of a traditional CIO is being broken with the new skills, experience required because of the evolvement in technology. Cox believes the shift in broader skills can help change the “proportion of female CIOs further” with a “good influence in collaborating through communication and networking skills”.

CIOs who are female are often under-represented in the technology sector according to organisations such as the National Centre for Women & Information Technology. The group are actively hiring more women in business and promoting educational institutions with the aim of getting young women involved in tech. The centre aims for the next generation of IT executives to pave a way in creating gender equality within the C-suite.

A technology degree has become no longer required for females with Kelly Olson of NHS Property Service, being the only CIO to have a university IT background, of the females listed on the CIO 100. These statistics suggest the role of a CIO is less technical and more strategic with a modern CIO’s responsibility in developing CEO engagement and producing competition research.  A recent survey reported that 25% of directors meet with the CIO at every formal meeting.

Educating female students, through mentoring, tours and career days, in making IT more approachable can lead to female CIOs becoming more visible and erasing the conventional view of a male dominated sector.