According to a new survey the number of women in senior technology positions at U.S. companies is down for the second year in a row.
The survey, published by U.S. division of the British tech recruitment group Harvey Nash, attests that just 9% of U.S. chief information officers (CIOs) are female, down from 11% last year and 12% in 2010. According to Reuters, 30% of the 450 American tech executives polled said their IT groups have no women at all in management positions. What’s more, when the same group of executives was asked whether women were underrepresented, roughly one half said no.
Which, I concede, is all bad news for women. To the boy’s club of CIOs in America, women aren’t around and nobody seems to have a problem with it.
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But I do. I think it’s wrong and bad and exactly the attitude that’s keeping women from earning anything close to our brothers, boyfriends and husbands. But that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about whether surveys and research like this are bad for women in another way: whether they’re looking at women in tech with a set of blinders on. Determined to find some good in the ongoing conversation about the black hole for women that is the tech debate, I set about looking to prove that this latest research was misrepresenting women in technology by only looking at a particular group of companies at the top.
Unfortunately, as Bob Miano, President and CEO of Harvey Nash USA soon filled me in on, I was wrong. His isn’t a study that looks only at the 500 most profitable companies in America, but rather a sampling of over 450 companies that range from Silicon Valley startups to “a large computer software company with three letters in its name.” And of these companies, fewer than 40 chief information officers were female.
In terms of women at the top, at least, the reports of decline are verified. But what’s worse, where I had hoped that the recent blizzard of startup activity might be helping to change the ratio in favor of the fairer sex, Miano says the opposite is true. He blames the decline in women in tech roles on the uptick of startup companies, which he says tend to be less interested in diversity than many of his older, more established clients who often put major emphasis on recruiting female talent.
But as a woman who covers women for a living, I know anecdotally that this research is not indicative of the number of girls, women, ladies I meet every week who are kicking tech’s butt in the startup world. I look at companies like Joyus and Fab, both highly funded ventures with women leading their tech teams. I look at women like Caterina Fake, Allyson Kapin and programs like Black Girls Code and Women 2.0. I look at numbers that say women are starting businesses at 1.5 times the national average.
This is an issue that has plagued us for too long, says Tara Hunt, CEO of Buyosphere, “Even though we’re seeing an increase in the numbers of women enrolling and graduating college with technical degrees. And even though there is an upswing in women joining and launching startups, we are quite far from parity. The more women we see in high profile technical roles at these companies, the more young women will be inspired to pursue a career in technology.”
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