IT girls happy at the top

Not many women reach the top of the IT industry - but they're still showing the men a thing or two.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The dearth of women in the IT industry has long been a bit of an MT bugbear. In our investigation into the subject in our February issue (click here for the full article), we discovered that they account for just one in six of all IT professionals. And of those that do enter the profession, their success rate seems strangely low: according to a survey of 1,300 women in IT by Microsoft and trade body womenintechnology, only 16% had made it to senior management level (though perhaps this just shows that more women have been entering the sector at junior levels in recent years, skewing the statistics).

So it wouldn’t be surprising if those women who do make it the top of the IT tree were slightly lacking in confidence; a little insecure about being one of the few female faces in an overwhelmingly male world. But apparently not. According to a survey of IT directors by online backup specialists Total Recall, female IT directors actually seem to be more confident in their roles than the men: 89% of women expressed total faith in their IT systems, compared to 79% of men.

The survey even suggests that women are better at focusing on business-critical issues – they considered internet downtime to be the biggest IT headache, whereas men opted for the (slightly more self-regarding) ‘day-to-day IT hassles’. (Though in fairness, we imagine female IT directors get plenty of hassle when the internet’s down and their company’s star employees can’t get access to their emails…)

Still, there’s clearly a long way to go before the senior echelons of the industry are a level playing field (although of course, IT’s hardly unusual in this regard). In general, the average budget of a female IT director was £43,000, compared to £67,000; nearly three-quarters of men control more than £50,000, compared to less than a half of women. So either female IT directors are not getting the responsibility they deserve, or they’re only getting the job in smaller companies with smaller budgets. Our money’s on the latter, but both options make grim reading.

Sadly Total Recall doesn’t have any easy solutions, other than to practise what it preaches - CEO Mark MacGregor says the company has been trying to hire more women itself. So perhaps we should turn for inspiration to the 1990 sci-fi film of the same name, which includes a memorable scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face peels off on Mars. Women may be from Venus, but they could certainly benefit if the IT industry had a similarly radical facelift...

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