You may be aware of the fact that women are currently underrepresented in the position of CIO (Chief Information Officer) in businesses of all types. Why this is so can possibly be attributed to two factors: cultural attitudes and lack of opportunity.
Rising to the level of CIO within a corporation requires years of dedication and hard work. The first step, however, is taken in high school and requires building a solid foundation of courses in mathematics, science and technology. These are not the subjects that teenage girls necessarily find appealing, due to either an underestimation of their own abilities or the influence of peer pressure. It is likely that more encouragement from teachers, counselors and parents could change that attitude. Surely many more girls have an aptitude for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects than actually pursue them. The new employment reality for women (and men) indicates that the highest-paying jobs will require STEM knowledge and demand for highly skilled people in these fields will only continue to grow.
At the college level, of course, women often feel freer to pursue any and all fields of study. Business, finance, marketing, mathematics, computer sciences, engineering, intelligence degrees to name just a few, will serve you well if you aspire to the position of CIO. At the graduate level, you may wish to enroll in an MBA program or take online coursework for a degree in Business Intelligence.
Appropriate education and training
As a woman thinking about higher education, however, you may be fearful that continuing in such a demanding field might not be worth the time and resources necessary, especially if you also aspire to marriage and motherhood at some point. While society still views care giving as primarily a woman’s job, there are many women in the news, wives and mothers all, who have risen to the top levels of their chosen fields. In fact, some of the skills you employ in running a household also serve you well in the position of CIO: the ability to plan and monitor many projects simultaneously, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, the ability to hire good people who perform to your expectations, a passion for the work you do. As a female CIO, moreover, you will be helping to change attitudes and make the workplace more flexible for women with both family and business responsibilities.
Another factor to consider when asking why there are fewer female CIOs is lack of opportunity. How does a woman even get her foot in the door of what, incredibly, still seems to be a man’s world in most corporations? While each person’s path to a top-level position is as individual as the woman who takes it, there are some common aspects to keep in mind as you make your career plans.
A good education is essential. The successful CIO must utilize information technology to solve business problems. She must be an astute businessperson with the ability to see how IT can address her organization’s needs. Consequently, her knowledge base must be broad, with special emphasis on business practices. She must have an understanding of current trends in fields such as analytics and software development.
Having a mentor is another factor that increases opportunities for women. You may have a favorite aunt that you admire as a successful businesswoman, or a colleague you seek out for advice or a college professor who inspires you. A mentor not only teaches by example and through shared knowledge; she is often the person that makes that life-changing suggestion, introduction or recommendation.
Two final factors that help open doors for women are passion and persistence. Loving what you do is essential for success. There will always be pitfalls and even failures along the way. The feeling that you are doing what you love will help you sidestep the pitfalls and learn from the failures.
Although it may take longer for a woman to work her way to a top-level position, she will encounter learning opportunities all along the way. Each year brings new knowledge, more finely honed instincts, and a wider field of colleagues and business connections. A determined persistence in achieving your career goals will take you as far as you wish to go. There may be fewer female CIOs today, but you can be on the way to changing that trend for the future.