IT’s Shifting Role Making Room for More Women  

by Matt Hooper

Increasing the number of women in the IT profession is a challenge spanning decades, with frankly little success. In 2014, women held only 26 percent of computing positions — down from 36 percent in 1991. For women of color, these numbers are even worse, with black women holding only three percent of these positions, and Latina women a dismal one percent.

However, the tide is changing. There’s a slight but steady increase in the number of women holding technical positions. And while more women are coming into IT, the industry itself is changing. 

While IT used to be the department of coders, network engineers, database administrators and desktop technicians, it has since transformed. IT is no longer a department. It is a competency used throughout the organization. Business line owners are taking more direct accountability for the investment in and management of IT services, whether that be through bring your own device (BYOD) policies, directly acquired cloud services, or standing up business IT (or Shadow IT, as the jargon goes). The IT function is being absorbed into business operational areas as leaders become digital natives. Since the gender gap has not been as predominant in these business areas, more IT control is opening up to women, and they are taking advantage of this shift through deliberate, proactive measures.

Having a balanced and diversified perspective with more input from women allows the application of IT to have a broader and longer lasting reach. The more varied the backgrounds and experiences of those leading the digital transformation of IT from a siloed entity to a company-wide integration, the more likely the organization will fulfill its digital initiatives.

What’s more, the digital transformation of IT is a prominent component in driving business success. PricewaterhouseCooper’s 2015 digital IQ survey found that company executives expect — and often gain — immediate returns from transforming their IT. The report indicated that 45 percent of executives want IT to drive new business growth and 25 percent want to leverage it to create better customer experiences.

As this digital transformation continues to unfold, there is opportunity in the IT sector for all genders, whether they want to be involved in the nitty-gritty coding side of IT or not. With new roles in engineering emerging, like data scientists, chaos engineers and security engineers, the opportunity for creative, innovative thinkers are endless. These roles will challenge the known intelligence of the organization around customer behavior, system integrity and cyber resilience. 

The digital transformation will also require IT professionals who can manage suppliers as directors of service brokering, business demands as business relationship managers, and analytics as chief as customer experience officer. These positions are prime opportunities for women to take charge of the IT industry and become equal contributors. Women can aspire to be technology heavy-hitters in and outside the coding trenches, much like Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, IBM’s CEO Virginia Rometty, Hewlett-Packard’s CEO Meg Whitman, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki and Oracle CFO’s Safra Catz.

These are exciting times to be in IT. With new ways of creating business value, the IT workforce is a challenging and rewarding future for anyone ready to take on the challenges of 2016 and beyond.

Matt Hooper is an evangelist  for LANDESK.

Join a panel discussion on "Women in the Data Center" (PL 7.1) at Data Center World on Tuesday, Sept. 13 from 9:25 a.m. to 10:25 a.m.  Register today!