Women In High Places -- Or Not - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
8/31/2007
01:54 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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Women In High Places -- Or Not

Is the number of female CIO's diminishing? It certainly seems that way.

Is the number of female CIO's diminishing? It certainly seems that way.I saw this news item recently: Coleman Named GSA CIO.

Her name is Casey Coleman, and she is the General Services Administration's first female CIO. Coleman had been the GSA's acting CIO since June, when former CIO Mike Carleton left to become the Department of Health and Human Services' CIO and deputy assistant secretary for information technology. Before that, Coleman was CIO of the Federal Acquisition Service, a relatively new GSA organization formed by the combination of the former Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Services.

Her credentials are impressive: a bachelor's degree in computer science from Texas A&M University and a master's degree in business administration and finance from the University of Texas at Arlington. Coleman also is a board member of the Government Information Technology Executive Council.

"Casey Coleman is the right person to fill this crucial position for GSA," said GSA administrator Lurita Doan. "The skills Casey demonstrated at the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) give me great confidence she will be able to help the Office of the CIO meet its many challenges, including reducing the cost and improving the quality of government services and reducing technology risk."

What occurred to me after reading the release was that I don't see many women being appointed CIOs anymore. Am I wrong, or are there fewer female CIOs these days? Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but I don't see many Linda Dillmans coming down the pike. Dillman is the former CIO of Wal-Mart.

I asked my colleague Stephanie Stahl, InformationWeek's executive editor, industry, for her thoughts on this. She responded in e-mail:

"It's hard to know exactly how many women CIOs there are out there, but it's easy to say there aren't many. The 2006 Census of Women Corporate Officers, Top Earners, and Directors of the Fortune 500, from a research firm called Catalyst, reveals a remarkable shortage of women in corporate leadership positions across the board. Women held just 15.6% of corporate officer positions in 2006, according to their data. Look around at technology executive conferences and you'll see a few women here and there, but unless you go to an event that's designed specifically for women in technology, you won't find many. So when you see an announcement about a woman being named CIO of a company or public agency, it really stands out."

Why is this the case? Is it a function of the general fall-off in interest in technology, as evidenced by the lower enrollment in engineering and computer science at colleges? Or is it a hardening of sexual stereotypes and institutional sexism? Or is there something else at work here? Tell me what you think.

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