Battle of the sexes needed for tech sector

8 Nov 2006

A battle of the sexes for the important emerging skills and roles in the traditionally male-dominated IT sector would be healthy, researchers have claimed. Diversity is not common sense or an issue of policy for IT firms and departments; it’s business survival, they say.

Research firm Gartner warns that organisations that fail to acknowledge the value of women in the workplace are increasing the risk of project, business and professional failure.

Gartner analysts say that the changing dynamics of ‘new world’ business practice, dominated by globalisation, relationships, communities and collective decision making, is better suited to women than men.

“Psychologists tell us that women, on average, are better than men at building trust and collaboration that underlie relationships,” said Mark Raskino, research vice-president and Gartner fellow.

“They excel at listening, in communications and social skills and in understanding other people’s views. A battle of the sexes for the important emerging skills and roles in IT would be healthy but it’s typically such a male-dominated function that there’s not even an active debate,” Raskino said.

Gartner predicts that by 2012 40pc of women in the IT workforce will leave traditional IT career paths and move aggressively into business, functional and research and development processes or entrepreneurial ventures.

Gartner said that chief information officers (CIOs) worldwide are increasingly focused on recruiting people who can build relationships across multiple stakeholders, cultures and orientations.

However, it warned they risk failure in many global initiatives if they are not able to attract and retain talented women in their IT organisations.

“CIOs currently don’t seem to be aware that social networking systems, vendor and portfolio management, collaborative knowledge work and several other areas in IT would benefit from typically female capability traits,” said Raskino.

According to Kathy Harris, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, businesses have traditionally focused on resolving gender diversity issues with a series of tools intended to get more women in business and management positions.

“Most traditional programmes have looked to change the way people feel, their organisational culture or they have simply waited for women to catch up,” said Harris. “But it is next to impossible to change the way people feel or think and it takes years to change organisational culture. Most organisations have made little or no progress and most women will give up long before they catch up.”

Harris highlighted that as we are on the brink of a true global environment, diversity is not a ‘human resources initiative’ but an inherent factor in every exchange, conversation or meeting. This demands traits and capabilities that span established stereotypes, psychology and behaviours.

“The solution is to change the game. Given the ambitious business drivers ahead of them, businesses and IT organisations specifically can’t afford to miss their objectives because they fail to attract half the talent base. Diversity is not common sense or an issue of policy; it’s business survival,” Harris added.

Gartner concluded that IT organisations need to redevelop their capabilities and this requires the gender mix to change.

By John Kennedy