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ChannelTrends: Why We Should All Be Inspiring Women to Build Careers in IT

8 Jan, 2015

Brian Sherman, founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial  and consulting for the IT channel, including his recent blog for CompTIA, shares his perspective on welcoming more women into the IT channel. Read on:

B. Sherman: Why would anyone not encourage their significant others, their daughters and sons, nieces or nephews or anyone else they know to consider a career in the IT field? The industry has a place for those with a variety of business and technology skills and basically offers lifetime employment to productive and forward-thinking individuals. Best of all, IT is the foundation of virtually all our future communications and business systems.

Look through the 100 Best Jobs rankings in the U.S. News and World Report and you’ll find numerous IT-related positions not only at the top, but scattered throughout the list. Computer technologies remain one of the fastest growing segments of the world economy with no signs of slowing.   

So what’s keeping people from IT? For girls and women, perception seems to be a major barrier to entry. With few exceptions, most areas of the IT industry remain male dominated. That’s not to say women don’t have opportunities, but a variety of cultural and awareness issues continue to keep their numbers relatively low considering the growth of the market. They made up just 26 percent of the U.S. IT workforce and only 18 percent of university computer sciences majors in 2012 according to the Department of Labor Current Population Survey.

Despite the addition of more than 850,000 computer and mathematics occupations in the previous decade, the percentage of women in those positions decreased by 2.7 percent (from 28.8). That’s a bad sign for girls in high school looking at their best career options and women looking to make a move from other occupations. It may be a bigger issue for our industry, which needs the critical thinking and skills they bring to the table.

A Different Perspective

So what’s keeping women from entering the IT field and — more importantly — what can all of us do to help change the negative trends? “First off, we need to change their perception of what a career in IT and the IT channel really means,” suggested Mary Ellen Grom, ‎vice president of U.S. marketing for SYNNEX Corporation and an executive council member of CompTIA’s Advancing Women in IT Community (AWIT). “We need to discuss how they can take their passion and education and find the right application for it in the industry. Most companies have HR, sales, marketing, customer service and a variety of other jobs available today. SYNNEX even employs seven full-time lawyers. ”

“We need to talk about finding (women) a comfort level and the right educational opportunities, and help them make the right connections in the channel. Frankly, there are very few skills that don’t apply somewhere in our industry,” she said.

Evangelizing the diverse opportunities is a perfect way for groups like Women in the Channel and AWIT to help. They can help peers understand how to integrate family, free time, philanthropy, leisure and other activities with their careers. Women need to champion each other because there are so few, and do whatever they can to shape their own destinies.

The Male Perspective

While both genders often promote the idea of helping women pursue careers in IT, how many actually put their time and energy into making it happen? Some do give a tremendous amount of their time and energy at a national and local level, but we have a long way to go. Through AWIT’s Dream IT initiative, the group expects to reach 10,000 people this year with its message that the IT industry is the right place for women and girls. A number of AWIT members have volunteered their time to speak and spread the message at high schools, colleges and industry events.  

Some may not realize there are actually several men also involved in the group and its initiatives, including Angel Piñeiro Jr., senior vice president of services for ASI System Integration, and John Mehrmann, chief executive officer of Brainhunter. Both participated in the recent AWIT meetings held during the Women of the Channel Winter Workshop found that while each was significantly outnumbered by their female counterparts, the experience was enlightening.

“I can truly say I know how women must feel when they attend a male-dominated technology event,” said Piñeiro. “The experience was very strange and I didn’t know whether to feel honored or like I didn’t belong. Seeing it from that perspective was truly enlightening, especially when a majority of the speakers (all women) greeted the audience with ‘hello ladies.’ While there were comments like ‘men have to say sorry more often’ or that we’re more assertive, self-centered and confident, I enjoyed the experience. Listening to our counterpart’s point of view was enlightening and I will certainly be more sensitive toward women at male-dominated events in the future.”

While the event may have strengthened their resolve, Piñeiro and Mehrmann have already been working hard to help AWIT bridge the gender gap in IT. Along with other group members, they encourage others — men and women — to join in the discussions. The benefits of a more diverse IT industry are simply too numerous and significant to ignore.

Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.   For information on the leading IT association, CompTIA, please visit http://www.comptia.org

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