Five Reasons Why There Are More Women CIOs Than CEOs or CFOs

November 23, 2015
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by Peter High, published on Forbes


This is my 200th contribution to the Technovation column. My team has had a chance to slice and dice the data behind the many extraordinary technology executives and innovators who have been featured in the 199 prior columns since October of 2012, and there were some particularly interesting conclusions that developed based on the women executives who have been featured. Accomplished female IT executives are more likely to take on additional responsibilities in addition to CIO roles.  These CIO-pluses include CIOs who head Human resources, Shared Services, Integrated and Behavioral Medicine, and Operations. They are also joining boards at a higher rate than their male counterparts. Let’s quantify where things stand.

Currently, 17 percent of CIOs of S&P 500 companies are women, as compared to 13 percent of chief financial officers and roughly 4 percent of CEOs. Some key CIOs of major companies have also recently been promoted to roles definitively above that.  Three examples include

  • Jamie Miller has gone from CIO of General Electric to CEO of GE Transportation
  • Rebecca Jacoby, who has gone from CIO to SVP of Operations at Cisco
  • Andi Karaboutis, who has gone from CIO of Dell to EVP, Technology, Business Solutions & Public Affairs at Biogen

Of the CIOs that I have profiled in my Board-Level CIO series, 42% of them have been women, including:

  • Linda Clement-Holmes, the CIO of Procter & Gamble
  • Stephanie von Friedeburg, the CIO of the World Bank
  • Kim Stephenson, the CIO of Intel
  • Patty Morrison, the CIO and head of Customer Care Shared Services of Cardinal Health
  • Angela Yochem, the CIO of BDP International

Women are increasingly filling board slots, and BloombergBusiness reports that for cybersecurity board openings, two-thirds of those roles are filled by women.

Based on our review of the profiles of the women IT executives I have featured, there are a few reasons why women CIOs are succeeding in these ways:

1. Female CIOs Tend to be Autodidacts When It Comes to IT

There is more room for growth, needless to say, but this all points to progress being made among women. Interestingly enough, of the women profiled in my column, the majority did not have technology degrees as undergraduate or as graduate students. This suggests an autodidacts ability to learn on the job. They learned what they needed to on the job in order to lead the IT function. Part of this speaks to the fact that the job of CIO is not as deeply technical as it was at its foundation.  Coding and development is now, more than ever, handled by third parties, and most companies are buying technology more than they are building it. That said, it remains a complex function, and the success of CIOs who have risen from outside of IT to take over the IT function bodes well for these CIOs to follow in Miller’s, Jacoby’s, and Karaboutis’ footsteps to positions definitively beyond the CIO role.

To read the full article, please visit Forbes

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