IT Is No Longer a Man's World – So Where are All the Women?

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More women are earning technical degrees, having tech careers, starting IT-driven businesses and getting involved in organizations that cater to women in technology. At least that what the common wisdom is. But, in the real world, female IT executives and women owners of IT businesses are still a pretty uncommon, if not rare, occurrence, notes Ingram Micro's Jennifer Anaya, Vice President of Marketing Ingram Micro North America. —Jennifer Bosavage, editor

Recently, I participated in a forum on “Women in Technology,” held during one of Ingram Micro’s Partner Invitationals. It was a great forum for discussion, but as I looked around the room, I couldn’t help but notice two things: First, the number of female business owners present appeared to be well below the North American average, and second, very few women under the age of 35 were in attendance.

Women entrepreneurs and business executives are a powerful force in our economy. In fact, according to the “State of Women-Owned Business Report,” commissioned by American Express OPEN and released in March 2012, there are more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenue and employing nearly 7.7 million people. The study also found that the growth in number (up 54 percent), employment (up 9 percent) and revenue (up 58 percent) of women-owned businesses during the past 15 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly traded firms.

And, when you look at some of the top-ranked IT companies – HP and IBM, for example – or dive into the ranks at Facebook and Fox Entertainment Group – women are at the top of the chain in highly influential roles such as CEO, COO or CIO. The glass ceiling has been broken, but it’s clear that many young women haven’t yet grasped what a career in the IT industry can net them.

As a business owner, women in technology can reap many rewards. For example, entrepreneurship provides women with much greater flexibility than they will find in Corporate America. In fact, entrepreneurial-minded women who want to work and raise a family, or focus on other outside interests such as volunteering or charitable pursuits, will find that business ownership can be very accommodating, no matter which path they choose.

Taking the executive path and working within a corporate environment is also a promising career choice for women, especially given the emphasis now on communications and collaboration (two areas women tend to excel in).

Additionally, the opportunity to travel and experience the energy of different cultures and cities is always a draw. The tech industry is much more relationship driven now than in years past, and — unless you’re in computer programming, for example — the fact is, you’ll likely spend most of your time in the field with your customers and partners vs. at your desk pounding the keyboard.

Whatever path you choose, my encouragement to women, especially the younger generations, is to give IT a chance! Don’t be afraid of technology. It is no longer as much about bits and bytes as it is about business, communication and collaboration. Become an entrepreneur, strive to be an executive leader at a tech company or launch a business focused on technology, and use your career to enhance your life and the lives of the customers you serve. A career in the IT industry is lucrative and challenging (in a good way!) – and the roads have already been cleared for women to excel to the utmost levels of influence and power.

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