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FCW : November 30, 2013
Commentary | CATHERINE HOWARD According to the National Center for Women and IT, only 9 per- cent of IT management positions are held by women. In a recent Harvard Business Review article titled "Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers," Herminia Ibarra, Robin Ely and Deborah Kolb explore the "second-generation" biases that hinder women s progress in becom- ing leaders and suggest actions to jump-start improvements. Given that IT prides itself on innovation, leaders need to take action now to work toward equal representation. Here are three good places to start: 1. Develop an education program to address second-generation biases. Educate women and men by focusing on promoting aware- ness and understanding. The four biases are: • A lack of role models. With only 9 percent of IT management posi- tions held by women, there are few role models for women to emulate. Linda Kekelis, executive director of Techbridge, wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog post that role models "help dispel stereotypes.... Their enthusiasm conveys that these careers are personally and profes- sionally rewarding." • Gendered career paths and work. This bias centers on anti- quated organizational structures and practices. "Feeling less connected to one s male colleagues, being advised to take a staff role to accommodate family, nding oneself excluded from consideration for key positions --- all these situations re ect work structures and practices that put women at a disadvantage," Ibarra, Ely and Kolb wrote. • A lack of access to networks and sponsors. Women have fewer people vouching for them, and women s networks --- groups that provide assistance and support --- are weaker than men s. In "Women Rising," the authors discuss the story of "Amanda," whose career begins to stall because she "lacks presence" and "isn t suf ciently out- spoken." Her career and con dence regained their footing "when she was assigned to work with two cli- ents whose [chief nancial of cers] happened to be women.... Each in her own way started taking the initiative to raise Amanda s pro le. One demanded she be present at all key meetings, and the other refused to speak to anyone but Amanda when she called --- actions that enhanced Amanda s credibility." • Double binds. A double bind occurs when, no matter what action is taken, it will be wrong. As an example, the article discusses typi- cal performance feedback given to women: "They need to 'be tougher and hold people accountable but also to 'not set expectations so high, to 'say no more often but also to 'be more visible, to 'be more decisive but also to 'be more col- laborative. " Additionally, "behavior considered assertive in a man is seen as aggressive in a woman and thus denigrated rather than rewarded." 2. Create "identity workspaces" to support women's transitions to bigger roles. Create coaching relationships, leadership programs and peer support groups to help women self-identify as leaders. "Identity workspaces" are needed to help keep women s careers on track for leadership roles. 3. Anchor women's development in a sense of leadership purpose, not perception. Emphasize sub- stance over style. "Overinvestment in one s image diminishes the emo- tional and motivational resources available for larger purposes," Ibar- ra, Ely and Kolb wrote. "People who focus on how others perceive them are less clear about their goals, less open to learning from failure and less capable of self-regulation." Federal agencies have long emphasized workplace equality, and the IT community puts a special emphasis on meritocracy, so impor- tant building blocks are there. But 9 percent is unacceptable, and it s time to refresh and re-energize strat- egies to hasten closure of the gap. ■ Addressing 'second-generation' gender bias Women are woefully rare in IT management positions, and xing that demands a concerted effort Given that IT prides itself on innovation, leaders need to take action now to work toward equal representation. CATHERINE HOWARD is a senior consultant at MindPoint Group. 14 November 30, 2013 FCW.COM
November 15, 2013