There Are Staggeringly Few Women CIOs — And This Is A Big Problem
12:10 pm, May 15th | by Amy Tennery
One need only look at gender pay gap stats to understand why technical careers are (or, well, should be) attractive to women in business. Women in STEM careers, on the whole, tend to face a narrower gender pay gap than women in less subjective fields, so to speak. Cut-and-dry qualifications and results are abundant in tech — less so in jobs in which your friendships and connections take a starring role. While the gender pay gap in different career fields can be attributed to any number of things, its comparative narrowness in STEM is telling. STEM women are more likely to be taken on their merits. This isn’t always the case in other fields. I’m not saying it’s the perfect field for women but one need only look at recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data to see how STEM pay stacks up against other departments. It’s clearly a better option.
And, with that in mind, it’s easy to see why women flock to the Chief Information Officer job at major corporations. Earlier this year, a study showed that five out of the top 10 highest-paid CIOs are women (to be clear, that’s Chief Information Officers, not Chief Investment Officers). Margaret McCarthy of Aetna and Lori Beer of WellPoint were, in fact, the two top-paid CIOs of 2011, according to data obtained by WikiBon. These are the good jobs — and, more importantly, these are the good jobs for women. And what the CIO pay data shows us is that this job has long been a stronghold for women.
Which brings us back to the latest study on women and the CIO suite: We ladies, against all seeming logic, are dwindling from the post. And, in fact, this pattern has been in the works for the last few years. What’s going on?
Twelve percent of CIOs in the U.S. were women back in 2010, according to the new report from Harvey Nash USA. The number slipped slightly to 11 percent last year, before declining to 9 percent today. Meanwhile, a third of CIOs said they have no women in IT management roles at all.
This is particularly staggering, as Mashable pointed out, because tech companies with women in charge have 12 percent higher revenues. One can imagine that CIOs at non-tech groups could have a similar influence. In short: Diversity helps everyone. This is not a particularly novel sentiment but in tech, it bears mentioning.
But while we can make the case that more women in IT is good for everyone, the Harvey Nash data is particularly bad news for women. As more and more reports show that many U.S. companies aren’t doing enough to recruit women into STEM roles, the CIO spot is kind of our last stand. Girls need to see women in charge in tech to feel motivated to pursue high-level IT careers themselves.
So, why is this happening? We’d like to think it’s a complex series of problems. But the real answer is of the chicken-and-the-egg variety: There aren’t a lot of women CIOs because there aren’t a lot of women CIOs. Or, as Harvery Nash Senior CP Anna Frazzetto told Reuters:
“Less and less women are attracted into that space so you wind up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not a very welcoming arena to be in.”
We need more women CIOs to get… more women CIOs. Anyone else’s head hurt?