From the Editor: Women CIOs, we need more of them

Having more women in top technology positions will destroy the hypothesis of women not being able to advance in technology.

When I entered the NASSCOM India Leadership Summit last year, it was immensely interesting and revealing to see women from various industries, attending the forum, give sound-bytes on camera, admitting that gender disparity in the corporate hiring was still a stark reality. There are not enough voices either in middle management or at the top, said these women, who featured in a video we put together. 

Circle into one year later. Another women's day, wishes exchanged, greetings given out, and we move to the day with the business as usual mode plastered all over. 

But, as someone who writes about the latest technologies and the trends affecting them, I do want us to take a moment to reflect if gender inclusiveness at the C-Suite, the CIO community that I interact with quite a bit, is for real. 

Out of the 4,218 companies covered in MSCI’s recent global study, it stated that women held a mere15 percent of board seats - which translates into varying levels at the C-suite.  

Is the position any different in India, when one breaks down this number? I was tempted to think so, till one came across latest NASSCOM data which suggested that over 50 percent of the IT firms in India will have number in the C-Suite in 2017, and more women will rise to the C-Suite within the organization and from external hiring. 

Having more women leading the technology positions at the C-suite will increase diversity in the true sense, than relegating it to tokenism of the most urbane kind.

Juxtapose this piece of positive data with the overall absolute number of women in top technology positions - the women CIOs, which still remains abysmally low – our own list of women CIO100 India winners in 2016 having remained at less than 10 percent.

Women CIOs still remain a miniscule minority across events and forums. There have been instances where one has seen a single woman CIO, astutely asking all the right questions that will affect IT strategy in their organizations. Women CIOs and their focus areas remain pretty much the same as their male counterparts – innovate, add value, scale up infrastructure, drive IT for business outcomes, participate in the board et al.

Also read: Where are the women CIOs?

Why are we so interested in these numbers and incidences? Simply because if we have to talk gender inclusiveness, the debate and the actual change starts at the top. 

The benefits of women leading a technology position is tremendous. An MSCI ESG research report on "Women on Boards: Global Tends in Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards" makes a bold case that gender diversity in the C-suite helps reduce controversies and conflicts within the C-suite as well as within the board around governance related issues. Another glaring piece of data explains that among the companies surveyed that had strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1 percent per year versus 7.4 percent for those without. 

For a start, to keep the process of evaluating performance competitive and fair, broader, deeper measures and metrics of contribution of the women at the C-suite have to be considered. 

Having more women leading in the technology positions at the C-suite will also help bust the hypothesis that women might not advance in technology. And will also increase diversity in the true sense, than relegating it to tokenism of the most urbane kind.