Women in technology: Our CIO readers talk IT gender roles

In this CIO Chatter, our SearchCIO-Midmarket.com readers discuss the cultural and economic politics of women in technology.

In a recent two-part interview on SearchCIO-Midmarket.com, we looked at issues surrounding the role of women in technology with Carolyn Leighton, the founder, CEO and chairwoman of Women in Technology International (WITI). Linda Tucci, SearchCIO-Midmarket.com's news director, spoke with Leighton about the cultural and economic politics of women in technology and how men and women are treated differently in the IT field.

Sadly, corporations still assume that if a woman is married, she 'doesn't need to work' and the salary isn't that important to her.

In part one, which examined whether women in technology communicate differently from men, Leighton discussed WITI's founding and looked at whether women and men are intrinsically different when it comes to an aptitude for IT. To follow up, we asked our readers, "Do you think women work and communicate differently than men?" Their comments suggest that there can indeed be noticeable differences between the genders in communication and leadership styles:

  • "The fact that women have this 'motherly' instinct makes them not be so blunt when saying things. They tend more to a persuasive mode of conveying a message, whereas men tend to try to be dominant, and speak bluntly. With more men than women (I wouldn't dare say ALL), the aggressiveness of upbringing is also present in their communication skills. A guy might say, 'Do XYZ,' whereas a woman might say, 'Would you do XYZ for me?' -- And she might even get a better response, as (most) men want to please women (in doing so, they might feel 'needed' or 'dominant')."
  • "I agree that there are traits that are more common or pronounced among women and others more common or pronounced among men -- statistically these are regarded as 'masculine' and 'feminine' traits. But I also believe that most of these traits lie on a continuum, and that there is considerable overlap. I grew up as the only girl among 3 boys, and my Mum was a seriously frustrated mathematician (i.e., housewife!). I definitely have a more masculine outlook than most women in a number of respects, but have gone through my whole career quite content to be number 2."

More on women in technology

A 'depressing' IT trend: The lack of gender balance

Mind the gap -- the gender gap -- in IT

In part two of this interview, in which Leighton discussed women CIOs and the art of negotiation, we looked at the increasing number of women CIOs in recent years and how IT has become a technology woman's best friend. We then asked for our readers' take on Leighton's proposals, asking, "Will playing hardball help technology women secure better pay?" Readers weren't shy about suggesting that being assertive to secure better pay might be "out of character," but necessary, for women in technology looking to get ahead:

  • "Sadly, corporations still assume that if a woman is married, she 'doesn't need to work' and the salary isn't that important to her. It's ridiculous, but I've encountered it in both large and small organizations. It's almost like you have to make sure that senior leadership understands that, yes, you'd like to earn a full paycheck please."
  • "Some hard-balled guys won't like it, but I think who you are is irrelevant with regard to what you're being paid for to do."
  • "Sorry, but if a guy is pushy and hardballs for salary -- it is respected. But if a woman does the exact same thing, she will be labeled a [expletive], and treated with contempt. … Women can't go there … it is a career killer."

Clearly, this conversation stirred up some passionate responses, with some believing that women in technology are at a disadvantage when it comes to securing high-level IT positions and desired pay.

What do you think about the role of women in technology? Do women in the IT department at your organization receive as much respect and pay as their male counterparts? Share your thoughts about women in technology in the comments section below.

This was first published in November 2012

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