CIO Development

Blog Addressing Gender Balance in Corporate IT

“We need to develop and leverage all available talent. Striving for continuous talent improvement is essential. Poor gender balance is a clear indication that we are not investing in potential.” Company Chairman

In April 2014 we were approached by the CIO of a major international organisation, a giant in its industry, who had just been handed a target of achieving 25 per cent female gender balance across his IT management grades in 2015. Untypical? It is happening more and more frequently. Most recently one of our biggest banking corporations has approached us with a 40 percent target to be achieved in 2017.

Unfortunately, shifting gender balance in IT leadership has proven very difficult, and recent evidence suggests it might even be going backwards. So what can you do if you want to take gender balance seriously?

In May we set up a special interest group of seven large organisations that were already making a serious effort to improve their gender ratios, with the aim of exploring what they had found helpful, what had proven difficult and what was still holding them back. We quickly identified some of the success factors required to establish and sustain an environment where female talent thrives. We then tested these ideas with the group and created key performance indicators, based on their collective experience, to help them address the areas in which they were blind or weak.

These discussions led us to the eight success factors below, which now form the basis of our roadmap to sustained improvement in gender balance:

  1. Rationale – Why are we doing it?
  2. Role models – What does good look like?
  3. Women’s confidence and support – Is anyone made to feel misunderstood and different?
  4. Smarter/agile working (how we do things)
  5. Unconscious bias (we all have it, and it can really matter)
  6. The way decisions get made – Is ‘inclusiveness’ properly understood?
  7. Culture (how we act, and what it means)
  8. Promotion and recruitment (hidden restrictions in practices, policies and processes)

To sustain improved gender balance, a CIO and leadership team need a clear reason for taking action and the conviction that improved gender balance will lead to a more successful leadership team going forward into the future.

“We must prepare our organisation for the effects of increasing numbers of female consumers and decision makers, now and in the future.”

If you are becoming committed to improving gender balance in IT, we can help. We have tools, ideas, and benchmarks that will help you to avoid wasting time and effort on initiatives that fail to deliver. We can point you to better practices that will help you to succeed.

To learn more, or to request a copy of the full Addressing Gender Balance in Corporate IT report, contact Rachel Onder at CIO Development: