CIO Straight Talk - Issue 9 - 40
H W CAN
Men will ask me, "What can I do to help
the cause of gender equality?" Although I
sometimes hesitate to give advice to women
based on my experience, I don't feel any
qualms about doing so with men.
My starting point is the concept of "gender
partnership." If we are to achieve proportional
representation of women in technology
leadership roles, men must become strong
allies with women in this effort. It's certainly
in men's own self-interest to do this, given
the documented business benefits of greater
gender equity in organizations.
Beyond that, I see two steps for men to take,
especially those in leadership roles. First,
educate yourself. Convene a group of women
and ask them what issues they face that are
particular to women. Get the data on where
your company is on the hiring and promotion
of women. Attend a conference like the
annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women
in Computing, the world's largest gathering of
women technologists, and listen to people's
descriptions of roadblocks to gender equity.
Second, take action. If there are removable
roadblocks in your organization, get rid of
them. Or be a staunch advocate of women
who a trying to do this. If a formal program
would help, sponsor it.
Sometimes the action you take occurs one
on one. Once, a high-performing woman, the
CTO in one of our business units, came to
me and said the demands of her job kept her
from meeting the demands on her at home.
She couldn't do both, she said, "and I need to
choose my kids". I asked her for some time to
think about it.
After asking around, I was able to propose
a job for her in HR that was part-time and
allowed for some work at home. She decided
to take the job-and eventually got back into
our technology work.
The outcome was that I was able to help
someone balance her life, and she helped
me to better understand the situations that
people face. People are often reluctant to
share this kind of information with their boss,
but it worked out well for both of us that
But the conversation shouldn't stop there. The
Leadhership 1 program cautions women about
making assumptions that nothing can be done in
situations like these. There may be options, such
as assuming a less-demanding position for a
while, that don't require taking a permanent offramp from your career. Clearly, your manager-
male or female-has responsibility for having
such a conversation. But so do you.
The program has enjoyed sustained
commitment, avoiding the all-toocommon problem of "corporate ADD"-
enthusiastic support for an initiative
that rapidly wanes when another
"program of the month" comes along.
When these issues have come up during the
Leadhership1 program, we sometimes have
found that options or even formal tools already
exist at our company to deal with such situations.
But a conversation is usually required in order to
identify and utilize them.
We get frequent requests from other companies
for advice. What makes our Leadhership1
program so successful? How did we manage to
get to the point where women represent more
than a quarter of our technology workforce?
And my first reaction is, "Huh? 27%? That figure
may be industry leading, but it's a long way from
gender equality. What's so great about that?"
But we've come a long way. And with a
combination of cultural changes and programs
like Leadhership1, we'll continue to make gains.
I have a 33-year-old daughter, and I always told
her that she should set her sights high, that she
could do whatever she set out to do. (Today she
is an audit director at an accounting firm-not
a coder!) Now she has a daughter. My hope is
that someday the current challenges of gender
equality will be nothing more than a topic
studied in the history books by my one-yearold granddaughter.
Women have a responsibility to initiative conversations with their
nd seek their help in identifying possible solutions to
problems related t o work-life balance.
Men and women working together to achieve gender equity
in an organization- a "gender partnership"-can increase
the chances of success.
Sustained commitment to an initiative allows you to continually refine it
and measure the results over an extended period.