Plenty of women hold leadership positions in higher education technology departments. So why is the percentage of females in the CIO seat declining?
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Over the course of my research at the Center for Higher Education CIO Studies, the percentage of women chief information officers (CIOs) in higher ed has been on a slow but steady decline. In the past, information from research on CIOs and tech leaders (TL) indicated that trend would continue. Tech leaders are people who serve in the next organizational layer down from the CIO.
From 2008 to 2013, the percentage of female CIOs declined five percent, from 26% to 21%. There could be any number of reasons why the percentage of female CIOs declined.
One reason might be a finding from the TL research that showed a consistently smaller percentage of female TLs who are interested in becoming CIOs than their male counterparts. In addition, female CIOs were retiring faster than male CIOs. Another reason could be the widely reported gender disparity in degree-major technology disciplines. And it could be the fact that female TLs and CIOs were retiring sooner than the male TLs and CIOs.
Despite this list of bad news for gender parity in the higher education CIO ranks, there might be positive change on the horizon.
The TL population is the supply pipeline for the higher-education CIO position. The graph below depicts four pieces of information: the percentage of female TLs, the percentage of female CIOs, the percentage of female CIOs planning to retire in the next 10 years, and the percentage of female TLs interested in becoming a CIO.
Female Tech Leaders' Career Plans
The percentage of TLs who are women has risen over the past five years from 33% to 40%. The percentage of female TLs who are interested in becoming a CIO, while low at 29% in 2013, has remained steady over the past three years. Another piece of good news is that the percentage of female CIOs who are planning on retirement in the next 10 years declined to a new low of 47% in 2013, and is no longer higher than their male counterparts. Despite these changes, the percentage of CIOs who are women continued to decline.
I took a deeper dive into the data in an attempt to determine if there were differences between the male and female TLs that are driving down the percentage of CIOs who are women. The CIOs and TLs in this research indicated that the two best ways to prepare for a CIO position were: using a mentor and on-the-job training (OJT).
Tech Leader Mentors
There were some differences in gender for mentoring. Most notably, 45% of the male TLs used their own CIO as a mentor versus 34% of the female TLs. This significant difference in mentoring with a supervisor (CIO) may have an impact on the female TLs' opportunities and growth. Forty-one percent of the male TLs said no one was helping them, versus 32% of the female TLs. This will be a challenge for the male TLs as they try to prepare for the CIO role. The female TLs had higher percentages in every other mentoring category except "my peers," where there was an equal percentage of male and female TLs.