Do Women Belong in The Kitchen or in BI? - InformationWeek
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4/23/2007
08:56 AM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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Do Women Belong in The Kitchen or in BI?

I want to highlight a piece of recent news from CIO Insight: women are leaving IT. There are no studies as to why this is happening, only the fact that it is. Fortunately for women in BI, it looks like our role in this segment of IT remains steady at 28 percent... Compared to other IT sectors, BI seems to be wonderfully represented by females, particularly in industry thought leadership.

I want to highlight a piece of recent news from CIO Insight: women are leaving IT. There are no studies as to why this is happening, only the fact that it is. Fortunately, for women in BI, it looks like our role in this segment of IT remains steady at 28 percent, although our pay is falling, according to just released research from TDWI.

Compared to other IT sectors, BI leadership seems to be wonderfully represented by females, particularly in industry thought leadership.Look at the work of Jill Dyche, Barbara Wixom, Kathleen Wilhide, Margy Ross or Claudia Imhoff to name just a few. Among BI vendors, women are in senior leadership positions at Business Objects, Hyperion, and HyperRoll, although admittedly, there is less representation in product development roles. And in the customer base, hearing such visionary CIOs and BI Managers as Twila Day of Sysco Foods, Celia Fuller of Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, Janet Hendrix of Nationwide speak at industry conferences is nothing short of inspiring.

Frankly, I think BI is the best place for women. While it may be politically incorrect to say so, men and women are different. BI is a field that demands an extremely diverse mix of skills including technical, business and interpersonal. Quietly coding even a single report in isolation generally leads to failure.

In a politically sensitive landscape, it seems okay to say that men and women are different, but any attempts to say how or why is taboo. In debating these recent research findings offline, one of my male counterparts said "even discussing such issues is asking for trouble." So call me sexist, but I'll argue that women bring a greater degree of insight and communication skills that are critical to BI (maybe I'm perpetuating stereotypes or maybe brain differences do explain some of our unique strengths and weaknesses.) For example, in a recent BI strategy session with a customer, hostilities where high between two male members of the team, one who was a data warehouse advocate, and one who had met the business needs for years by developing custom reports. Hostilities had been escalating for months, with neither party willing to back down or address the situation. In my first meeting with the team, it was obvious that job security, pride, and power struggles were at issue here. My suggestion: we needed to do a team dinner and discuss the concerns in a non threatening environment. Going to a hockey game would have done the trick as well.

Yes, there are many men out there who just as quickly could have diagnosed this problem, so if you want to argue that men are equally insightful and sensitive (or concerned about a bad hair day), I'll accept that. But I hope you will agree, whatever our strengths and weaknesses, we are different. When diverse teams are brought together, it leads to more creativity, a key ingredient for successful business intelligence. If you think this doesn't affect performance, consider this research from Catalyst: profits are higher at companies with diverse management teams than companies without gender diversity.

I challenge you to look at your BI team: how diverse is your team? And are you paying the men on your BI program more than you are paying the women - why?

Reminder: take this 10-minute survey on successful BI and you will be entered into a drawing for a Bose headset. Ironically, I never though to ask how gender diversity has affected BI success - but you could always write that in "other"!

Sincerely,

Cindi Howson Founder, BIScorecard product evaluations, author of Business Objects XI R2: The Complete Reference, and TDWI instructorI want to highlight a piece of recent news from CIO Insight: women are leaving IT. There are no studies as to why this is happening, only the fact that it is. Fortunately for women in BI, it looks like our role in this segment of IT remains steady at 28 percent... Compared to other IT sectors, BI seems to be wonderfully represented by females, particularly in industry thought leadership.

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