Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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8/11/2014
08:06 AM
Susan Nunziata
Susan Nunziata
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Gender Bias: Is Your IT Group Guilty?

When it comes to gender bias, a recent InformationWeek flash poll suggests that IT groups may be slightly less discriminatory than the tech industry in general. But there's still plenty of work to be done.

Gender diversity is a hot topic among tech companies these days, and the statistics are grim: Males dominate the global workforces at all the tech companies that have revealed their diversity data this year.

We wondered if the same was true for IT in general. Are IT organizations in major commercial enterprises, healthcare organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions as male-dominated as the tech companies from which they source their products?

The results of a recent InformationWeek flash poll might lead us to believe that IT organizations across industry verticals are less discriminatory when it comes to gender than their tech-only counterparts.

More than 3,000 of you responded to our flash poll, Gender Discrimination IT, between July 1 and August 7, 2014. In response to the question "Do you believe you've ever witnessed gender discrimination in IT?" more than half of you said you have either witnessed it or been a victim of it. Just under half (48.75%) said no, indicating you've not witnessed gender discrimination in IT.

Table 1: Do you believe you've ever witnessed gender discrimination in IT?

Response % Respondents
Yes, I've seen it 34.53%
Yes, and I've been a victim of it 16.72%
Source: InformationWeek Flash Poll, "Gender Discrimination in IT," June 1-August 7, 2014; 3,235 respondents.

As with all forms of discrimination, gender bias can be blatant or it can be subtle. So while those respondents who say they've never witnessed it may be fortunate enough to work for truly enlightened companies, it's also possible that the sexism was so de facto that they didn't even recognize it. Likewise, those who say they have witnessed or experienced gender discrimination may have in fact been harmed by some insidious displays of gender bias, without experiencing behavior that egregious enough to prompt legal action (more on that later).

One blatant -- and illegal -- form of gender discrimination is pay disparity. Unless you're sharing your paystubs with your co-workers, you may not even be aware that unequal pay for equal work exists at your organization.

[Help equalize the tech gender gap by encouraging young women's' interest in STEM. Here are 12 great resources: 12 STEM Resources For Young Women.]

Salary disparity is a very real fact of life, however, for many women in IT. According to the InformationWeek 2014 US IT Salary Survey, the median total compensation for a female IT staffer is $81,000. For male counterparts it's $94,000, a difference of $13,000. That's a significant gap.

That pay gap is echoed in compensation for managers, with median total compensation for men at $122,000, versus $110,000 for women. (If you're looking to increase your earnings in IT, check out these negotiating tactics from Joan C. Williams, distinguished professor and founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at University of California's Hastings College of the Law.)

Perhaps even more indicative of the gender gap in IT is the difference in the number of men and women responding to our 2014 IT Salary Survey. Nearly nine out of 10 (87%) of the 5,717 IT managers and 85% of the 5,945 IT staff respondents were male.

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Susan Nunziata works closely with the site's content team and contributors to guide topics, direct strategies, and pursue new ideas, all in the interest of sharing practicable insights with our community. Nunziata was most recently Director of Editorial for ... View Full Bio
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Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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8/13/2014 | 3:11:16 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Yes, Apple did -- and it had pretty much the same breakdown as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. However, Tim Cook did say improving Apple's diversity is a priority for him.
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 2:18:27 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Alison - I saw that apple released thier deversity today so companies are aware now how do they diversifiy.
Alison_Diana
IW Pick
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 1:57:17 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Isn't that the truth, @Jeff! In my area - Central Florida - there's a very active, thriving technology integrator, Craig Technologies, that is woman-owned and headed; she is definitely and obviously the driving force behind the company she founded after years at NASA (I believe; definitely in engineering). Yet sometimes companies pay lip service to the diversity concept, naming a figurehead to get the diversity classification (be it woman, veteran, or another capacity). I respect what government and other groups are trying to do here and think it's necessary, unfortunately, but you'd think there was a better way to measure compliance than against an org chart... 

I am glad to see Facebook, Google, et al, break down their diversity numbers both as overall employees and within their technology groups (where employees make more money and have more opportunity). To me, that shows they are at least seriously considering the implications -- less competitive products, less access to the best and brightest employees, etc. 
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 1:50:49 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department

Alison - thank you for the response again very insightful.  From a slightly different, but real life point of view I have seen projects awarded to companies because they best met the "Diversity Criteria".  Truth be told they "best met" was a long way from met the criteria.

Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 10:01:41 AM
Take the Diversity Test
You can examine your own diversity awareness and any bias, courtesy of a free series of online tests developed by Project Implicit, a non-profit developed by three university scientists to "foster dissemination and application of implicit social cognition." The president of the Society for Women Engineers passed along this test to me in 2013, and many find it very eye-opening.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 9:59:28 AM
Re: Gender Bias
Some businesses have found the best way to increase the diversity of applicants is to broaden the way in which they reach out to prospective employees, working with groups that support women in tech, minorities in tech, etc., to get their openings out to a much wider base. That doesn't always work, of course, and time sometimes is of the essence. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 9:55:34 AM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
In covering this topic for years across multiple publications, I'd say there's a lot of truth to the idea more white men apply for technology jobs than other people. It's one reason so many tech and non-tech businesses are getting involved with improving STEM's image for young girls, teens, and college students. It's a reason i believe it's so important to encourage more women engineering teachers, female or diverse physics professors, etc. I just read a USA Today article on Girls Who Code; it included a young Hispanic girl's quote, where she said she could never have envisioned herself working at a Facebook or Google until she met a Hispanic woman who is a tech professional at a startup. Girls need role models in this field; thankfully, lots of men and women across all backgrounds and ethnicities are realizing this and investing money and time to make this less rare.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 9:52:16 AM
Re: Gender Bias
Apple announced its employee mix today (or yesterday) and it's more of the same, unfortunately. On the plus side, Tim Cook stated it's a priority for him to improve the diversity mix at Apple. In reporting on this issue for years, I've discovered that companies which really emphasize and support diversity do a good job of meeting that goal. IBM, for example, has a rich heritage in supporting women across technology and business roles, and has a much higher mix of women and non-white males in its staff and management. EMC also has a big, ongoing diversity initiative. 

In both these companies' cases, they have a high-level exec whose sole responsibility is to improve hiring and retention of a diverse workforce, and that includes making sure diverse employees have the resources and support they need once they enter the workforce at this business. IBM, for example, has many groups for women, women of color, Hispanics, etc., leveraging perhaps its global presence. The company supports women in tech organizations, such as Anita Borg, financially and through participation in events.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 7:37:24 AM
Re: Gender Bias
I agree, getting the right person in the position is key.  When I have job openings the response rate is overwhelmingly male, this last time it was 100% male.  I feel that this lessens my selection pool and would love to see some more diversity between the candidates.
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
8/12/2014 | 10:48:56 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Alison - Good statement and relevant.  And I would also add the point of view that hiring is also a numbers game.  I would be interested in knowing what the ratios are for men/women applying for tech jobs?  If this is a pure numbers game and let's assume for the moment that more men apply for jobs then the ratio would be higher for men in tech jobs.  However that does not account for actual discriminatory hiring practices and the associated behavior.  I would also add that as more women than men are staying in college and getting a higher level of education then we should see this shift based on qualification and roles.
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