Women in Tech; Saving Grace for the IT Staff Shortage?

Women in Tech; Saving Grace for the IT Staff Shortage?

As predicted, we are now in the midst of a skilled IT staff shortage. In fact, IT staff now ranks third in ManPower’s annual talent shortage survey as one of the hardest positions to fill, up from sixth place in 2011. But, as companies look to fill these critical tech roles across various industries, will women be their saving grace? Historically, women have not held a prominent role in the technology sector; however, recent research shows women are making promising strides.

The number of women starting tech companies has actually doubled over the past three years, according to a 2011 Women 2.0 survey. And, according to other findings, in 2009, only 3 percent of all tech start-ups were led by women, but, in 2011, this figure jumped to 11 percent. Though still a small number, the increase is encouraging. What’s more, nearly 90 percent of the U.S. high-tech IPOs in 2009 had at least one female officer, as compared to 11 years earlier, when only 4 percent of the 134 U.S. firms that went public had women in executive roles. That’s a 2150 percent increase!

Just look at Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, to name a few. These women are paving the way for both the growth and acceptance of women in technology management positions.

Not only are women increasingly qualified for such roles, but having women in leadership positions can be a smart, strategic choice for corporate direction. Why? Well, when you consider that women account for approximately 85 percent of all consumer purchases and will influence the purchase of $15 trillion in goods by 2014, it’s probably a good choice to lead corporate decisions with some level of direct insight into the leading consumer demographic.

Despite such strides for women in tech, however, we still have a long ways to go. In order for women to help make a difference in filling the IT staff shortage, there needs to be a growing pool of technically educated women. Of the estimated 120,000 computer-science graduates in the U.S., however, only 11.7 percent were women in 2010-11, down from 13.8 percent in 2009-10, according to a Computing Research Association report. But, discrepancies between men and women go far beyond college degree breakdowns. On average, women still make just 81 percent of what men make, and, even with an advanced degree, women only make 77 percent of their male counterparts.

There’s no doubt women have come a long way in executive leadership for the technology sector and beyond, but what needs to happen to help even out the playing field? I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that more women than men choose to stay home to raise children and run family life – a taxing job in and of itself – but, as more and more women choose to stay in the workforce, will tech be an increasingly popular vocation? The trends seem to indicate progress in this area and it will be interesting to see how women continue on this path in years to come.


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