In 2018, only about 18 percent of the top 1,000 U.S. companies featured a female CIO, according to a 2019 analysis by consulting firm Korn Ferry. This represents a slight increase from 16 percent in 2017. But progress is slow and requires a tech talent pipeline more attuned to the needs of women and girls.
“For decades, the IT field has been unreceptive to employing women,” said Julie Dort, a Business and IT faculty member of Purdue Global, a university offering personalized education tailored to working adults. “Women have been overlooked for positions even when they as a candidate were more qualified.”
Women have also dealt with wage gaps, gender discrimination and limited opportunities and resources.
Such neglect is often glaring. “Take, for instance, the first computer,” Dort said. “Six women programmed the first electronic computer, the ENIAC, during World War II but weren’t given credit for that work.”
At next week’s 2019 Heartland Developers Conference, Dort will address the barriers women face in IT, and offer solutions to get past them, in her presentation Breaking through the Glass Ceiling: Women in Information Technology.
Dort spent several years as a technology instructor and is passionate about encouraging women to flourish in tech. That encouragement should start with family.
“We need to start educating parents to feel comfortable with STEAM programs, and we need to encourage them to enroll their children in the numerous STEAM opportunities in our community,” Dort said.
The Silicon Prairie has sprouted a number of equity-minded tech startups that are bringing much-needed diversity into IT and facilitating women’s advancement in the field. Organizations like the AIM Institute, Women in Technology of the Heartland (WITH), and DOSpace, along with local colleges and universities, offer a wide range of STEAM opportunities for youth.
“These organizations are providing the necessary tools to encourage and draw young women into these fields,” Dort said.
The AIM Institute has assembled a comprehensive, ongoing list of tech talent ecosystem resources on its website. Parents, guardians, and educators are encouraged to visit the site to find valuable opportunities for the girls and young women in their lives.
“Technology drives our lives. There’s a need for women to shape the industry, change the paradigm, and create an even more vibrant, creative, global technology sector,” Dort said.
She offered a list of things that need to be done to create an atmosphere conducive to women’s thriving in IT: eliminate stereotypes about women and STEAM. Help girls develop self-confidence from a young age. Teach them to dream and set high goals. Show how them how to be leaders–not only in their own lives, but in the community and in the professions.
“We also need to give girls opportunities to meet, work with, and be mentored by professionals in the field who have made it,” Dort said.
Such mentorship opportunities are priceless. Mentors of any gender can help, even male mentors.
“Research suggests finding a male mentor can be advantageous to a woman’s career,” she said.
As the tide shifts and technology becomes an increasingly inclusive sea of diverse identities, backgrounds and perspectives, young women will have more mentors to choose from and identify with. The most innovative companies will recognize and encourage this sea change.
How HDC Helps Further the Conversation
While HDC addresses all aspects of software development—from the business applications of technology to effective leadership to blue-sky innovation—this year’s conference places a special focus on social issues around the tech industry, from avoiding burnout to increasing emotional intelligence.
In addition to Dort’s presentation, a panel discussion, Not Out of the Woods Yet: a Women in Tech Panel, will explore and offer ways to dismantle the barriers faced by women in technology.
Stay optimized for the ever-changing tech talent landscape. Register here for HDC today!