By Carolyn Leighton, Chairwoman/Founder, WITI -Women in Technology International
After starting my career in education, I moved into the technology industry when I founded my company, Criterion Research, 1984. We landed contracts with some amazing companies, such as: HP Labs, Borland, Hughes Aircraft, Raytheon Semiconductor, SLAC. I loved the tech industry. I built relationships with so many talented people from whom I learned volumes.
Many of the women working for our client companies started sharing their frustration that they were continuously losing opportunities for promotions, great projects to men they believed were less qualified, asking me if I thought they should leave and start their own business as I had done.
At the same time I was hearing growing numbers of stories from women in those companies, I was also seeing men dying of heart attacks in their 40’s and 50’s. Not only women were unhappy in their jobs.
These experiences kept me up at night. I kept searching for answers as to why any company would want to lose these amazingly, talented women – well educated, smart, committed to doing whatever it took to help their employer grow and become successful. And, I thought about all the men who had been conditioned to believe that only they were responsible for supporting their families, taking stressful jobs they did not want or like.
While all of these questions were swirling around in my head, U.S. News & World Report came out with a featured front page story about the glass ceiling for women - stating that while women made up about half of the workforce, the growing number of women moving into Mid Management positions were leaving corporate America to start their own businesses, because they knew they were not going to be promoted into Executive positions.
I read this article, thought about all the stories women were sharing, and felt driven to find a solution – after all, this was not only a loss for women, for the companies, but for our great country – since many of these women had secret clearances, contributing to important science & technology projects.
This is why WITI was started in 1989.
Email was becoming a central communication tool and I felt starting a network, which gave women access to a global network for women working in all sides of technology would give them a competitive edge when they were interviewing for new opportunities.
WITI’s central message to companies then and now was: don’t hire or promote women to satisfy compliance requirements, but because you recognize the business value women bring to the table.
We were determined to create a strategic, business centric approach to addressing these issues – for women and men-to be a positive force for women, men and the companies that hired them.
“Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth.”
The PC was just getting into the mainstream. In the early 90’s; the technology industry was going through a major transformation. Technology was exploding with significant impact in every industry, every size business, throughout the world.
As demand for technology grew in the 90’s and the role of the technology industry started rapidly changing, the demand for CIO’s rapidly escalated, and Companies started looking for a new kind of CIO.
Companies were redefining the role of a CIO – they realized the purely technical, keep everything working requirements for CIO’s was no longer adequate. Company Executives realized their rapidly changing business models required CIO’s who not only had solid technical skills, but a comprehensive understanding of how every decision they made impacted the bottom line and the business of their company.
Now Companies of every size understand that each person in their company cannot and should not make decisions in a vacuum. Each person in a company must thoroughly understand the business of their company so their decision making process has the most positive impact on their company’s bottom line. This remains one of the challenges of all businesses – even if executives understand this principle, executing on it can be very challenging.
Today, WITI is the leading global professional association for tech-savvy women (and men) that consider technology critical to their businesses and professions. Corporations leverage the WITI platform to power internal women’s networks and get their brand in front of this highly sought after market.
It makes good business sense to include women in product development, design, marketing, product management and central business roles in every company. Why? As you will see from the statistics included below, women have an incredible amount of buying influence for consumer and business purchases. If women are the customers, doesn’t it make sense to have them participate in the key business decisions?
Opportunities for CIO’s
As the number of female vendors to your company and consumers of your company’s products and services increases, you can make a great business case for promoting yourself and other women into key positions in your company.
Today, CIO’s are perfectly positioned to become Industry Leaders, CEO’s, Board Executives if they are viewed as possessing the following high demand skills and attributes:
1. Thorough understanding of their Company’s Business and the central business issues;
2. Strong communicators – Confident, Effective Presenter – whether it’s one to one, Company Board presentation or talking to the media;
3. Strong Relationship Builder – this is key since data for decades demonstrates key hires are more influenced by relationships than any other single factor.
If you have some or all of these attributes, and you want to realize your fullest leadership potential, there has never been a better time to go for it. So what can you do to leverage what you have and acquire what you need:
Brand Building – you may be the perfect candidate that someone is looking for right now – but if no one outside of your company and limited circles know you exist, you won’t get that life changing call
Leadership – As company statistics about women become more available, this is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your leadership skills.
Focus on the Business Value you bring to the table. Take the time to emphasize the business value you bring to the table.
Networking. Too often professional women making relationship building and networking a low priority.
Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.