Hewlett-Packard, E. Piphany, Xerox, Pepsi.
How is it that some of the world's biggest, fastest-moving companies can claim female executives, and yet the overall number of women in the top spot continues to be anemic? Why are there so few women CEOs?
The tough questions are being asked by The Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology, a Palo Alto based group helping to bring female executives and technology companies together.
The Institute just released a report called "Senior Technical Women: A Profile of Success." In it, ABI researchers address what it takes for women to get to the top.
Tips include: Mentoring, networking, and reaching to take advantage of any possible development opportunities.
For companies, ABI recommends a harder look at diversity of work lifestyles and family configurations.
The Institute recognizes that women are far more likely to step off the career path to take care of children; this, they say, should not be a burden.
Here are the six attributes the study found needed for success: Complete report here.
- Analytical: The majority of senior technical women perceive themselves as analytical. Indeed, all technical employees tend to see themselves as high on this attribute, as technical careers tend to first and foremost look for analytical and problem-solving skills.
- Unafraid to Question/Desire to Learn: A majority consider themselves as questioning – having the ability to ask the right questions, which is critical to problem-solving.
- Risk-Takers: A majority of senior technical women view themselves as risk-takers, which was identified by technical employees as one of the top four attributes of success. Moderate amounts of risk-taking are an important part of leadership, and senior women and men are equally as likely to perceive themselves as risk takers. This research shatters the stereotype that men are more likely to be risk takers than women are.
- Collaborative: Senior technical women are collaborators. A collaborative work style is perceived as a critical success factor in high-technology by both technical men and women, and is consistent with a culture that values innovation, which cannot be achieved without extensive collaboration. Collaboration is both a critical source of success but also a great source of career satisfaction.
- Hard-working/Long Hours: Advancement for senior women comes with long working hours. This finding is consistent with the culture of technology where advancement is tied to increased responsibility and significant availability. This can be a barrier for women who seek advancement while juggling family responsibilities in dual-career couples. 72 percent of the senior technical women surveyed reported cutting back on sleep to advance their careers and nearly a third have delayed having children.
- Assertive: A majority of senior technical women describe themselves as assertive – significantly more so than women at the entry and mid levels. In a professional culture that rewards speaking up, self-promotion, and ambition, senior women interviewed uniformly said they had to learn to be assertive and promote themselves in order to advance. However, research also shows that women have less freedom than men in assertive behavior. Because women’s assertiveness defy long-standing gender stereotypes, women often experience a “likeability penalty” when they are assertive.
More than 50 companies participated in the report. Clearly, these companies are talking the talk, but why aren't they hiring more women as executives? Does the burden fall on them, or on the women themselves? To ABI's credit, they're not just pointing a finger and walking away. They recognize that things need to change on the corporate level, but also on the individual level.
What do you think? How do we get more women in the high tech executive suite? If you have any ideas, let me know (my twitter account is @scottbudman). If we get enough good ideas, we'll let you, and the Borg Institute, know.