Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
8/11/2014
08:06 AM
Susan Nunziata
Susan Nunziata
Commentary
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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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Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 6:49:04 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
@Susan - I can tell you that when I was in college, and that was a long time ago, in my engineering courses it was 95% men.  So times have changed I to be honest I don't believe that gender should be an issue; it should be about qualifications.  Technical ability yes but also the intangibles too.  Like can people work with you and ultimately can you get the job done.  As the saying goes "Works well and plays well with others", not "Student does not achieve to apparent ability".
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/18/2014 | 6:41:11 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
@JeffJerome: the lack of qualified women has often been cited by tech companies looking to justify their hiring practices. I'm not sure how we could prove that unless they were willing to reveal the gender breakdown of all their job applicants.

Assuming it's true, then it brings us to another issue, which is why there are fewer young women and girls than there are young men and boys choosing to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and whether those ratios will change over time.

no easy answers, you're on the right track in your observations, though.

 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/18/2014 | 5:12:17 PM
Re: Gender Bias
@Zaious: Do you feel the numbers show a greater bias than you expected, or less bias than you expected?

Personally, I was expecting more respondents to our flash poll to have said they've witnessed gender bias, but I guess it's a hard thing to witness because it can be so subtle.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/18/2014 | 5:00:49 PM
Re: Gender Bias
@Zerox203: yes, bias and discrimination based on age, gender or race are all extremely hard to prove by the letter of the law which is why it is such a minefield for any employees who want to speak out. It really is time for companies in leadersihp positions to step up and say they're going to go beyond what's required by law to make sure bias -- whether conscious or unconscious -- isn't ruling their operations.

One way to do so would be to train all employees (including the top execs) on what unconscious bias looks like and how we can each work on ourselves to avoid it.

I was talking about these issues with a friend over the weekend and she pointed out that bias goes so much deeper--in her workplace there's bias based on what universiities the employees have graduated from. If you didn't graduate from one of the two dominant universities at that company, your chances of getting a promotion are severely limited.

 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 4:56:10 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Yes, that's what I figured out too from the info some companies made available. Even in their overall employee base, hiring leans strongly toward white male although it's not as disproportionate as tech professionals.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/18/2014 | 4:53:10 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
@Alison: Based on what I was able to glean from the stats released by the tech companies compared with the gender stats from our own salary survey (which included non-tech companies), I'd speculate that they're pretty close. though it does seem, based on the diversity figs released, hat tech companies skew higher in male employees even in non-tech jobs, and I can't say with any certainty that this is the case for jobs in non-tech companies. Will see what additional info I can find on that point...
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 3:33:15 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Hiring people in retail is a lot different from hiring them in technological or managerial positions (preferably tech management spots). Procter & Gamble has a long legacy of hiring women and minorities, according to reporting I did last year, and that's across the board of professions within the vast corporation. Creating a diverse retail presence is one thing -- but do developers really think they will meet the needs of women, people of color, and others outside their white male majority if these groups are underrepresented or completely unrepresented? The answer, I strongly believe, is no. It's not just a matter of being a 'good' company with the 'right' corporate culture. It's also a question of survival or, at least, thriving as US demographics shift. 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 3:17:24 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department

@Alison_Diana     Thank you for the link.  The numbers don't surprise me - I have sensed throughout my career that this was the case.   The entire industry has work to do.   I hope Mr.Cook understands that increasing minority representation is more than a job at the retail store.   That is not advancement.  

There are some who are qualified to be down the hall from him.   As for the FB's and Google's the sentiment is the same.   What are they waiting for ?  Oh they are aren't waiting ?   They just don't care.

It is much easier to say there are no ( or not enough ) qualified minorities - but there are some.  So hire them for real positions - not interested in the Genius Bar.  What a joke.

Can you say Cupertino ?   So can I.

Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
8/15/2014 | 1:32:24 AM
Re: Few female tech grads
Alison, 

"Thanks to the efforts of K-12 and higher-ed schools, IT professionals, organizations, and volunteers, more women (younger and older) see technology as a viable, fulfilling, and attractive career path."

Most likely future generations will see more women in technology. The first problem for not having more women in technology comes from those parents who said things like "what are doing playing with your brother's toys? Are you a boy?" to their daughters.

Girls, until not long ago, were given only "girls' toys". In the same way parents didn't seem to approve boys playing with dolls, which in some generations has created a false idea that children were a "women's thing" only. 

-Susan 

 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 5:16:46 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department -Making Marketing Better—Why Diversity Enhances Your Business
Ha! Very good! Yes, diversity is a hot topic, made even hotter by tech companies' (lack of) diverse workforces. Plus there's the threat of organized response (Jesse Jackson, for one, has been pretty vocal about how little diversity there is at tech companies). 
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