In late February I participated in a conference at the United Nations on “Enhancing Women’s Global Leadership Through IT.” (CXO Media, CIO’s publisher, was a conference sponsor.) I met scores of smart people from all over, all committed to improving the lot of women in and through IT. The conference was moving. It also struck me as rather sad.
Speaker after speaker noted that women are leaving IT, that women are underrepresented in IT leadership, that girls are not entering the sciences. Then they proposed strategies to turn things around.
What made me sad was that in September 2000, CIO ran a story, “Why Women Hate IT,” that pretty much identified the same problems and proposed many of the same solutions. And almost seven years after that story ran, nothing much has changed.
Meaningful shifts in the way large groups of people think and behave are rare. In my life, I’ve seen two: the absolute intolerance for driving drunk (which was a subject for comedy when I was a teenager, 40 years ago) and the banning of smoking from public places with the attendant stigmatization of the habit.
These two changes in the way we live happened because the media, the government and grassroots action combined to inundate the public with negative messages about smoking and drunk driving. It was an irresistible conflation of powerful forces that continues today. And that’s the kind of energy that needs to be leveraged for millions of people to change the way they think and act, individually and collectively.
That same gathering of forces now seems to be occurring in the environmental arena. An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s movie on global warming, wins an Oscar last month and President Bush admits that yes, maybe climate change is a legitimate concern. Governments around the world are passing new regulations against polluters and energy hogs. “Green” has become a selling point for products, and business is learning that sustainable energy practices are not just ethical, they’re profitable.
This month’s special report, “Green Is Better,” both describes this mind shift and is a part of it. Take our quiz, “How Green Are You?” to see whether you’re part of the solution or part of the problem.
As for women in IT…it seems to me that that tipping point has not yet arrived.