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Women In IT: How Deep Is The Bench?

In the technology field, there are women leading some very well-known companies. Marissa Meyer is the CEO of Yahoo! and Ginni Rommety is in charge at IBM. Just this week, Twitter appointed the first woman to their board of directors, Marjorie Scardino, former Pearson CEO.

The glass ceiling in the high-tech industry is shattered. Case closed, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, the number of women in IT, as a percentage of the workforce, stands at only 25%. That number looks even worse when you consider that, in 2011, women comprised 57% of the American labor force, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nora Denzel is a former senior vice president at two famous high-tech companies: Intuit and Hewlett-Packard. She’s disheartened by the lack of women in IT.

"We were making progress until the mid '80s -- the supply of women peaked at 37% in '85. None of us knew that by 2010, only 18% of CS undergrads would be women," she says. "The numbers moved, but in reverse. It's a revolution in reverse."

Debbie Madden is an executive vice president at Cyrus Innovation who has been recruiting software developers and other high-tech professionals in the New York area for more than 17 years. She is also discouraged by the relatively small number of women in the industry.

Speaking last year about a panel she had just conducted on how to become a software developer, she said, “There were 150 people in the room, and if more than five of them were women, I'd be surprised. When I was majoring in engineering, there was a lot of hope that women were finally starting to take on more of these STEM degrees. People were very hopeful, but I'm not seeing that now."

Madden also notes that women are choosing careers that allow them to have children. A lot of them don’t view a career in IT as accommodating to that goal as other job options.

However, many IT companies offer a variety of incentive, which may include:

  • Flexible work schedules
  • Telecommuting
  • Wellness programs
  • Child care
  • Paid and unpaid leave

Another disincentive to women entering the IT workforce, Madden says, is the “brogrammer” culture, particularly noticeable at startups. This environment typically entails a group of young men, who through their behaviors and attitudes, create a work culture only comparable to a college frat party.

"No one's intentionally preventing female engineers from working at those companies; it's just an overall culture that's not appealing to a lot of women," she says.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hiring managers aren’t just focusing on technical skill sets any more. They want people that can also be team players and know how to work well with others. Hiring managers are seeking professionals who might be able to move up the ladder to leadership roles and even to project management.

That demand for “soft skills” should unquestionably make the field more attractive to professional women. It also gives women the opportunity to make lateral moves to IT departments within their existing organizations.

Looking for qualified IT professionals? V-Soft Consulting is an industry-leading IT staffing and business solutions firm. Our growing team of hundreds of technically talented and highly driven IT consultants support, build and execute a wide range of technology staffing and business solutions.

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