It started with a casual conversation at a CIO luncheon held in conjunction with IASA's annual meeting in Las Vegas in June. Although there were an equal number of men and women at my table, ours was the exception. Most of the other tables were occupied primarily by men. Not surprising in an industry traditionally populated by men, I mused aloud. The discussion between my tablemates that followed became fodder for this month's cover story: a focus on six unique women who embody what it takes to occupy an insurance technology leadership role.No one could argue that there has been a dearth of women occupying such roles. The National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT), a Boulder, Colo., organization that supports women's participation in professional IT careers, reports that although women represent 46% of the U.S. workforce overall, they held only 32% of computer and information systems management positions from 2004 to 2005 [U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) population survey]. "This is slightly higher than the aggregated average for women's participation among all computer-related occupations (29%) but significantly lower than their participation in professional management positions in general (51%)," a NCWIT spokeswoman told INN.
Nevertheless, demand for technology management is increasing. According to DOL's Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of both male and female computer and information systems managers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014.
So, how to explain the discrepancy? There is a host of reasons why women may be in the minority: fewer women role models, lack of access to informal networks-both inside and outside the company, gender-based stereotyping, etc.
Yet the six women featured in this issue's cover story seem to rise above the gender issue when describing their success. In other words, through their dedication and desire to improve their organizations' IT operations, they found themselves committed to providing superior leadership in the insurance technology space. Period.
"My ability to manage at this level is a mindset," said one, "and I do what I can to take that message forward and help other women succeed in this industry."
Deborah Cooper has been quoted in the greater press stating her agenda as president of the IEEE Computer Society, a Reston, Va., subset of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers that serves more than 100,000 members worldwide, is one of inclusiveness, openness and opportunity. Her intent is to push the doors open even wider to careers in technology for women and other minorities.
Judy Campbell, CIO and senior vice president at New York Life, and one of our six featured women, offers this idea to keep the doors open: "We need to do a lot more at the college and high school level to get girls to stay in sciences and get girls to recognize that they're really quite capable," she says.
We may be on our way. Earlier this year, the IFS School of Finance (a UK-based educational institution) was thrilled that a record 40% of 2,000 registrants for its Certificate in Regulated General Insurance were women.
Onward and upward.
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