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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Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 6:26:49 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
@Technocrati: I don't think you veered off course at all in the sense that all forms of bias are insidious and ultimatelly detrimental to the workplace and IMHO will limit the success of any company or organization. I wish I had a simple answer to this conundrum, I honestly think the only thing that will improve it is time, as our world becomes less and less homongenous we will start to see true color- and gender-blindess in the work place. Which generation will lead the way? Probably the one that follows the millennials...
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 6:06:35 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
@Jeff: "Maybe it is the ability to multi-task which my wife would tell you only women can truly do and men simply can't do it.  I think she said that to me at a time when I was doing something else so I can be certain."

I have seen no scientific proof that your wife is correct, but the results of experiments conducted in my own home would be right in line with her astute observations. :)

In all seriousness, I have known many women to gravitate to jobs in male dominated fields that can be described as project manaagement or traffic management -- wheter in tech or in other industries. Does that reflect an innate ability to multitask? Are women just extra good at herding cats?
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 5:58:24 PM
Re: Few female tech grads
@Susan: You nailed it: The issue goes deep into how society has been conveniently molding gender roles. That, I believe, is what needs to be changed first. The question is, how do you fix it?

I wish I had the answer to that question. So much of parenting is about personal choices, and I see some friends who raise their children in very gender neutral environments and others who are all about the girl and boy distinctions in clothing, toys, nursery decor, etc. pretty much from the moment the baby arrives.

I'm not a parent (except to two dogs and two cats). I'd love to hear more from the parents in our community here about their thoughts on the topic.
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
8/26/2014 | 5:54:57 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Hi Susan - Yes indeed what did you call it the republic of Berkely?  I find it a bit ironic that in other industries like construction for example that many of the up and coming project managers are women.  Of course in the field trades they are still mostely men.  Maybe it is the ability to multi-task which my wife would tell you only women can truley do and men simply can't do it.  I think she said that to me at a time when I was doing something else so I can be certain.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 4:55:58 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
@Jeff: Geography likely plays a huge role in this issue, both within and oustide the US. I'm in the Bay Area too and generally find men here to be far more enlightened than in many other places I've been.

On the flipside, many of the tech companies reporting the worst gender discrpencies are based here (although the numbers reflect their worldwide workforces), so I'm not really sure what to make of that.

 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2014 | 5:53:31 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Thanks Alison for clarifying what you meant by "comfort in the workplace", and from your examples I certainly agree that there are times when the majority doesn't want the status quo to change and this certainly goes for occupations where women are taking on roles for the first time.

I do agree wholeheartedly that what you describe is unacceptable and I applaud companies who take a proactive approach in understanding and respecting the dynamics of their workplace and culture.

And very true, you don't have to join these groups but it is also good to know you have the option to if you want.   Let's not kidd ourselves there are parts of the World and the U.S. that don't quite hold the same opinion we do - to say the least....


Of course no easy answers here, but meaningful dialogue is vital for us  to get anywhere in our lifetimes.      But in terms of the tech industry, the nunbers are appalling  and I will be watching for improvement but I won't hold my breathe.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/21/2014 | 10:52:35 AM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
First, I absolutely agree with you that acting as if all minorities are from the inner city or all women are feeble is insulting and wrong. That said, have you ever worked or socialized or been part of a team (a sports team, for example), that does nothing to accept or welcome you -- or even proactively works against you, for whatever reason? This is the type of 'comfort in the workplace' I was alluding to: Just as when women first joined police and fire departments, there were issues around Penthouse posters on lockers and R-rated, sexualized calendars on walls, the majority can sometimes shun or make a workplace uncomfortable to the 'different' person, even if it's not meant particularly coldly. So by ensuring new hires are welcomed (and this should be across the board, anyway) and not neglected by current employees, businesses make the workplace more comfortable because the 'diverse hire' is included.

Groups may or may not be necessary. I think, in the case of these multinational firms they have groups for everything and anything so having one for various members of the workplace population, such as women, makes sense. People can choose to join or not, so participation is not mandatory.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2014 | 1:28:24 AM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
I am not sure programs are the answer. Sure it is a step in the right direction for sure, but I am not certain we are seeing minorities in the same light. These cookie-cutter approaches are almost insulting to minorities who have survived the industry without a support group or peer.  I think it is safe to say if you get inside IBM as a minority you are well adept at coping with corporate America.

Some might need this but not every minority came from the inner city, which is the group companies tend to think of when they create these "programs".   This is a difficult issue of course - because there are different shades of grey.

I am not sure what "comfortable in the workplace" means ?    Yet I am sure that is the least of the concerns for most minorities - I think they are more concerned with getting the position they are qualified for and then ( gasp ) receive the same pay as their white and Asian counterparts.

That in my book would be the most important ingredient for "comfort in the workplace".    I don't mean to be snarky about this but again these misconceptions need to be cleared up.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2014 | 9:05:37 AM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Eliminating the outsider is one thing some companies proactively try to do. As I mentioned in an earlier post, IBM for one makes sure managers interact closely with new hires to ensure they spend time with their peers, either as a group or on a one-on-one basis. They also have formal, company-sponsored groups to support women and minorities, both through networking and processes for complaints, etc. Granted, it's easier if you have thousands of employees but smaller companies too can eliminate crass, thoughtless talk and make a special effort to ensure minority and women feel comfortable in the workplace.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2014 | 6:03:41 AM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department

@S.N.   Absolutely, when we talk about opportunity, it must be about real opportunity or what are we talking about ?

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