How female CIOs can exceed expectations

7 December 2014

Unfairly so, female IT leaders are often held to more stringent standards than their male counterparts.

Under constant scrutiny
Although unfortunate, it's a reality these professionals face on a daily basis. Despite the fact that the corporate world has made progress over the past five decades, it still has a ways to go. Therefore, women in the tech field entering leadership positions need to be cognizant of several factors that may work against them.

CIO.com contributor Sharon Florentine spoke with MissNowMrs.com CEO Danielle Tate, who outlined the differences between how male and female executives' competence is weighed among their colleagues:

"Male executives are judged first and foremost on how they do a job, and perhaps secondarily on their office demeanor and appearance. Women are immediately judged on both, and therefore need to set goals around performance in both areas."

How to navigate an uneven playing field
Florentine spoke with a number of other female executives on the issue and came up with a a few tips that will help women reach success in a landscape that pressures women more than it does men:

  1. Don't be a "people pleaser": Keystone Associates VP Penny Locey noted that most women are raised to focus first on the needs of others, and then themselves. While there's nothing wrong with expressing kindness, female executives should not hesitate to be assertive and make decisions their colleagues may not favor at first. This will help them earn the respect they deserve.
  2. Build professional alliances: Florentine noted there are those who hold formal and informal power. The latter contingency is the one female executives should aim to collaborate, as that will provide them with more clout within their organizations.
  3. Use your socialization to your advantage: Saba Software CMO Emily He told Florentine that women's socialization as empathetic, accessible and amiable can help them appeal to millennials, who seek these qualities in a leader. Assuming a female executive possesses these character traits, it will certainly help them attract much-needed, young IT talent.

Making progress
Although female executives are often held to a higher standard than their male colleagues, signs that the glass ceiling is slowly cracking are thankfully becoming more pronounced. ITWeb's Salary Survey found that women in CIO positions make 9 percent more than men holding the same jobs. Even though three of the 42 executives who participated in the study were women, those in other IT leadership positions were paid 10 percent to 40 percent more than men on average.

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