Facebook's Sandberg stirs debate among women in IT

Presence of women in computer fields has been declining

By , Computerworld |  Networking

That discussion might include people such as Kim Stevenson, the vice president and CIO of Intel, one of 24 female CIOs in Fortune 100 companies.

Stevenson said Intel has done things to help women advance their careers. Among other things, the company offers mentoring programs and opportunities for network-building -- an activity that Sandberg champions. The chip maker's Women at Intel Network has 22 chapters.

"No one likes to feel that they are a unit of one," said Stevenson. She doesn't share Sandberg's view that progress for women has stalled, but she said that she believes more can be done.

Intel's efforts have paid off, said Stevenson. The rate of attrition among women is low, and the company says the number of female employees in mid- to senior-level technical jobs has increased 24% since 2004.

Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, an executive recruiting firm specializing in technology, is among those who believe women need to create a professional support network. "In pure technology departments, men still outnumber women by as much as nine to one," said Harris. "The sole woman in a predominantly male team often feels a sense of isolation."

There are many theories about why women and, especially, girls aren't considering IT-related training. Culture plays a role, some argue.

Karie Willyerd, vice president of learning and social adoption at SAP, wonders if unflattering depictions of engineers in popular culture -- like those in the comic strip Dilbert -- have discouraged girls from thinking about careers in IT.

But the cultural message may be shifting, said Willyerd, who points to things like building block maker Lego's efforts to attract girls and expose them to engineering.

"[Software engineering] is not only well paid, but highly flexible and conducive to a woman that wants to work throughout their children's formative years," said Paula Hunter, executive director of the Outercurve Foundation, a nonprofit that offers a forum where open-source and commercial software developers can come together. A high percentage of startups are also founded by engineers, she notes.

Stephanie Reel, senior vice president for management systems and information services at John Hopkins Health System, said that in the healthcare field she has worked for and with men and women "who have been fair, balanced and professional -- in a business world that is often dominated by women." Women have a significant presence in healthcare overall in part because a high percentage of the people who go into nursing are women, she said.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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