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Women in Information Systems: The Secret Code

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Women in Information Technology:

The Secret Code

In the past century, women have fought for such basics as the right to vote, own land, and

establish credit. In recent decades, women have struggled for a seat at the tables of power and fame- from the tennis courts to corporate boardrooms to the halls of Congress to the space shuttle. Today, the women’s movement is in a new, complex phase. Women have slowly ascended to leadership roles in all sectors of the economy; however, each woman who makes it to the top of her field is usually alone once she gets there. Many of the issues for these women are the same, from questions of male domination to secret dialogue, to discrimination to pay inequalities. Because the fields and agendas are so diverse, no one simple, set of answers resonates across the board. It is clear, however, that women will be instrumental in leading corporations to new resolutions. This paper presents a range of perspectives on gender and information technology (IT). The aim is to present some of the major debates and critiques of IT to highlight some important issues of concern for women in leadership rolls.

The IT Industry

IT is a multi-billion dollar industry which is, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (2005) “the development, installation, and implementation of computer systems and applications. The U.S. Department of Commerce identifies the information technology workforce more broadly. In a report on information technology, the Department defines workers in information technology occupations as those who design, manufacture, operate, maintain, and repair information technology products and provide related services across all industries. The men and women in the IT industry have careers such as Computer engineer, computer programmer, computer scientist, computer user, database administrator, database specialist, interface designer, network specialist, software engineer, statistician, systems analyst, technical communicator, or a web designer. Together the people with these careers in information systems and information technology make up the IT industry.

IT Leaders

IT managers need a broad range of skills. They not only need the technical skills, but should also have strong business skills, experience with specific software or technology, as well as a background in consulting or business management. IT managers must possess strong interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills because they are required to interact not only with their staff, but also with other people inside and outside their organization. They also must possess team skills to work on group projects and other collaborative efforts. Computer and information systems managers increasingly interact with persons outside their organization, reflecting their emerging role as vital parts of their firm’s executive team (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004-05).

Male Dominated Industry

During the 1970s and 1980s, males were more likely to have highly specialized training and were consequently valued more highly than females (Colwill & Townsend, 1999). IT professional males were once seen as possessing highly technical skills and knowledge that the rest of the organization could not access. Control and power over resources was in the hands of these professional males. An air of mystery surrounded both the IT professionals, and the rest of the management structure, which also consists of mostly males.

In the IT industry, in particular, the need to think strategically about the role of women is becoming more vital. Over the past 20 years, there has been a radical change in the IT environment, both IT based businesses and those for where IT is a support service.

There seems to be a hidden secret male code in this IT industry, a secret

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