Where have all the women gone - Leading women executives

While fewer women are entering and staying in the IT profession, there are some leading beacons to inspire and encourage new recruits.

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This is the second part of a two part feature on female executives.

In CIO magazine’s special report last year on the UK’s 100 largest users of IT, only 11 women featured as heads of IT. Three of those were in the top twenty and one in the top 10. Here we look at some female leaders in the IT profession.

Mary Hensher, CIO, Deloitte (Ranks 60th in CIO's top 100)

Hensher did a modern languages degree at Cambridge and then a numeracy course, before working at KPMG. She moved to Deloitte in 1999 as IT director.

She believes the lack of interest in IT stems from an early age. "There are a range of reasons for the dearth of women in the profession, but the games market is one of the possible reasons. Most games have been designed for boys, although there are finally some girl specific games coming on to the market.

"But many of the issues are the same for every industry. Work life balance, managing families, IT is not unique. But IT is challenging intellectually and we need to change the perception that it is dull.

"Women network and should be raising awareness, but it is not a matter that bothers most men. Seminars do raise awareness, but frankly it isn’t the women who need these it is the men. Let’s face it, men also have problems in working life – it is not a lack of willingness in many cases, but there are not that many women in the IT market. We need to get more of them in the work pool first.

"Everything derives from computers today – it is huge and global. For example, all movies are computer based, ie Lord of the Rings, Shrek etc. I defy anyone not to be interested.

"Promoting IT is about getting the right hooks."

Catherine Doran, IM Director, Network Rail (Ranks 31st in CIO's top 100)

A member of the executive management group within Network Rail, which devises and drives delivery of the strategy for the company, Doran’s specific responsibilities encompass all aspects of Networks Rail’s Information Technology systems, from both the infrastructure and applications perspective.

Doran says she has had female IT professionals contact her, asking advice on how to advance their careers and has become so concerned with the declining numbers that she has brought it to the attention of her team at Network Rail. “We decided to try to do something positive, and next year will begin to do the milk round at universities to see if we can address the gender balance,” she says. ”It is so important to have diverse workshops for the whole business. There is huge drop off and a failure to retain senior, experienced women. This has to change, and we need to encourage more women to enter the pool in the first place.”

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