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What Women Want

What Women Want

More young women would choose careers in enterprise IT if CIOs would market them as business, not technology, jobs

I agree that attracting more girls and women is a must for the technical workforce that invents new tools, games, devices, software and hardware (to be used and consumed by, among others, women). But this emphasis on programming, robotics, computer science and engineering won't get women interested in working for your IT organization. In fact, it is exactly that tech focus that obscures the true nature of enterprise IT jobs (which we'll call business technology) and the background and skills necessary to excel at them.

Business technology needs broad-thinking candidates from a broad range of undergraduate and graduate curricula who want to learn how companies - not computers - work; who can work with a global project team, rather than with programming languages; and who can see business process linkages, rather than map out electronic connections.

Meanwhile, the collection of jobs that saddled business technology with its geeky image - network and data centre administration, code maintenance, programming and help desk - may soon be centralized, automated or offloaded to outsourcers. The stereotypically inarticulate men with pocket protectors who hold these jobs - and who defined the image of the profession way back in the 70s - will soon retire en masse (taking with them their pocket protectors).

Now you need business analysts, program managers, vendor managers, relationship managers, information architects or process analysts. These jobs (any of which can lead to CIO) demand employees with excellent communication skills that many of the women you know have: the ability to speak, negotiate, influence others, write, analyze, manage projects or programs, and lead cultural change. These jobs are not about writing operating systems or learning programming languages. They are about helping companies change the way they work. "Driving changes that help the business generate more revenue, lower cost or improve customer service - cracking these business problems - that's fun!" says June Drewry, CIO of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

So how do we dispel the stereotype? With better information about what business technology really is, how women of a variety of backgrounds can be and are successful, and finally, with the explicit support and engagement of the 86 percent of top IT executives who are men.

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