IT Employment

Stereotypes that female CIOs fight

According to one expert, female CIOs battle two stereotypes: being a woman and simply being a CIO, which is usually an agent of unwanted change in the company.

According to one expert, female CIOs battle two stereotypes: being a woman and simply being a CIO, which is usually an agent of unwanted change in the company.

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In the keynote speech at EmTech08 last week, Atefeh Riazi, the CIO at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Inc., talked about the ways in which women in IT are stereotyped in the workplace.

First, they are stereotyped simply because they are CIOs. CIOs are agents of change, and most people are fearsome or resentful of change. They also speak a language that most other employees of a company don't speak and that can be intimidating.

Second, they battle some pretty strange perceptions in the workplace because of their gender. Qualities that would be perceived as advantageous for a male CIO are off-putting when possessed by a woman. For example, bluntness in a man is often perceived as strength, while the same quality in a woman might be perceived as bitchiness.

Riazi warned that a woman has to battle nurturing tendencies in the workplace. For example, women should avoid phrases like "I feel that..." Riazi explained that one of her male bosses admonished her for this one time by saying, "You are an engineer. You don't feel, you believe."

But whether you're a male or female CIO, Riazi offers some tips for success:

Emotional intelligence is, by far, the most important quality for a CIO. Understand where people are coming from. If they fear change, find a way to explain a new initiative that will quell those fears. Don't issue directives.

Understand how what you're saying is perceived. IT people can be blunt, and this is often resented. Take the time to explain things without being condescending. Your goal is to create positive feelings about a new initiative.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

31 comments
No User
No User

That tends to happen when you try to have it both ways. Women tend to fail or at least are viewed as undesirable when they try to act like a man. Typically when a woman tries to be blunt they just bitch hence they are viewed as bitchy. Women don't make good men but thankfully men do. My experience is that what works best is to just be yourself and add professional etiquette and everything works out fine. Women tend to bring a lot of baggage with them to the work place. They typically view playing fair as being put at a disadvantage. ;)

bs
bs

Surely we're all grown-ups and can simply appreciate that the way a woman approaches things is/can be different to how a man does. Honestly - it really is time we stopped having to mess about with this kind of nonsense and just got on with the job!

celestialbodi6
celestialbodi6

Perceived weakness transformed to strength! The savvy woman in any field uses her inherent temperment to her advantage. Emotional intellence is the nail hit squarely on it's head.

domiles
domiles

Interesting and sad that things have changed so little! Since the 1960's I worked in "male" fields, automobile industry, construction and service stations. It was not easy to be "one of the guys", but being a very adaptable person I managed. At what price? A very heavy one. I hope my latter day counter parts do not have to out cuss, out drink the guys and no longer have to listen to dumb broad comments and filthy jokes. Or the greatest insult of all. When taking two contractors to lunch to discuss a contract, the two men went into the rest room rather than be seen having a woman pay for their lunch. They were even rude enough to tell me why! Did anyone mention sex for keep one's job or getting a promotion? I am around teenage males a lot and things have actually changed very little by their conversations. Unless one is willing to be black listed by taking an employer to court you just keep doing your job and try to pretend to misunderstand the sexual innuendos and ignore remarks like the supervisor made.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I used to work with a lady that had been at the company we worked at for fifteen years. She had been personally involved in building the network from the ground up. At the time we worked together, she had moved out of the tech role to a security position and later an analyst position. The company hired a manager that was to say the least a sexist. This lady and the new manager had a minor disagreement at a meeting and when the meeting was over, the lady left. On the way out the door she paused for a moment and overheard the new manager say "She's a girl. How technical can she be?" It's sad but true; sexism is not dead as long as these preset notions exist. Really, this is no different than racism.

cupcake
cupcake

...now if we can just get everyone to think along those lines.

coolmack38
coolmack38

Some time ago, I was being overlooked and the projects were going to the guys (I was the only female). Then one day I got so frustrated, I stood up in a meeting and asked if I needed to grow a penis in order to get some recognition, well after that - they requested for me for projects. Some times you have to beat them over the head to get what you want. Or, they just never wanted me to say anything like that in a meeting again, which worked for me too.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I know of a woman that became a NY Senator because she slept with a former President.... I have worked shop jobs, and had many female co-workers. There were some that made the choice to be "one of the guys" and there were some that made the choice not to be. The ones that made the choice NOT to be in the guys club were not talked to the same way because they made it clear that they did not think crude humor was funny, and would not tolerate it. Even the swearing was much less around them. Sure, they were not a part of many of the discussions or joking around, but that was their choice. Life is what you make of it. And there are as many jerks that are female as there are male, it all depends on who you get the pleasure of running into and what you are sensitive to.

sterghe
sterghe

I'm female, but my first name could belong either to a man or a woman. I've noticed that when I handle business via e-mail or chat with someone I don't know in person, I get very different responses if I leave the "Ms." in front of my name or if I omit it. When I omit it, people assume I'm male--and they respond differently. One big thing I've noticed is that if I'm tired or busy or just don't have time to pad messages with "feel-good" politeness, I should leave off the "Ms." People are absolutely fine with a quick, to-the-point, even blunt reply when they think it comes from a man. When the exact same kind of reply comes from someone they know is a woman, they're not OK at all. The same message has to be conveyed within a frame of social niceties, which take a minute or two longer to write. This isn't a huge part of my job, but if it were, I can easily see where it could affect productivity quickly. Men might be able to do some specific tasks faster not because they're better or faster workers, but because the people with whom they interact don't demand time-consuming extra niceness from them. (I don't mean basic common courtesy, which I think should ever be ignored by anyone. I mean the extra "I understand your pain" bits that are essential customer service coming from a woman and a not-essential surprise coming from a man.) Also, if I need to contact someone else's tech support for information (say, server names, etc.), then if they think I'm male, they provide the information I requested simply and to the point. If they know I'm female, they tend to ask extra questions to be sure I understand how to use the information I'm requesting before telling me what I actually asked to know. This isn't something that I'd have completely expected if I hadn't experienced it firsthand, so many times, from so many different people.

jdclyde
jdclyde

What did she say to the manager? What did she say to the HR department? Did she allow/empower this manager to talk about her that way? Sounds like she did? From your post, I assume this is all based upon the story she later told you? Gender bias is stupid in all forms. Race bias is stupid in all forms. That is why recently in Michigan, they passed a law that made it illegal to use race or gender as a means to discriminate.

Dana44
Dana44

if he was a new manager maybe he hadn't seen how technical she can be. I think that as a society we tend to look to others as the problem when something goes wrong. "It couldn't have been me, the supervisor just has it out for me because I am (insert whatever you would like....black, female, blond, young...)". I think people need to start taking responsiblity for themselves. There are plenty of opportunities out there, and they shouldn't be spoon fed to you just because someone has decided whatever group has been discriminated against. And, btw, I am female.

ashepard
ashepard

Hi. Working on different contracts my experiance has been that contracts with alot of planning and concurrent operations are handeled better by women. Those contracts with alot of unkowns and pressure are handled by guys better. Call me a dinosaur but I'd like to take advantage of the skill each brings. Note: this is broad brush stroke remark - your milage and experiance may vary.

john3347
john3347

How do you know that this NY Senator ever slept with a former President? Is this not just an assumption on your part due to a common home address?

InAwe
InAwe

As another female with gender neutral first name, I've experienced the same thing.

ashepard
ashepard

Hi, Ditto from a guy. It does not come across well for a guy to add flowery language. It can come across as inappropriate. One other tip I give to female workers is speak like a guy. Not just caveman grunts of "Ug" or hmm v.s. a well thought out recital. But sometimes one has to lower their voice and speak slowly to be taken seriously. BTW - since computer science is a new field I thought it was rather free of sexism? Women where on equal turf and guys where accepted. We are men and women not machines - right? We are mobile carbon units not stationary silicone ones.

coolmack38
coolmack38

Exactly. Hope people connected to the link.

cupcake
cupcake

Generally speaking I agree, but in the case DanInYorkPA describes the guy actually says "She's a girl. How technical can she be?"... that's not that he doesn't know her, its because he assumes if she is female she cannot know technology. That, IMHO, is blatant discrimination. It wouldn't be any different if someone were to say something like "anyone with the name Dana must be an idiot"... a blantant assumption not based on information. And, I too, am female.

maecuff
maecuff

Then that is a sexist statement. It really doesn't get more black and white than that.

undyingphoenix
undyingphoenix

Not true. If she had been a man, the comment wouldn't have been "He's a guy. How technical can he be?" That question never gets asked. Women shouldn't have to work twice as hard to look "just as good".

Dana44
Dana44

She can't control his assumptions, she can only control her reaction. If she chooses to play the "poor pity me the men are out to get me", then that is her choice. She will need to learn to live with how she is treated from then on. On the other hand if she takes it as an opportunity to prove him wrong that is also her choice. If you think being called an idiot is the worst thing that has ever been said about me, then you need your head examined. I know how smart I am and what I am capable of doing, you calling me an idiot will never change that.

brian
brian

Why would anyone want to promote *him* with such an attitude? Guess he is choking on some sour grapes...? I've reported to female bosses, had female direct reports and female peers in my IT experience. With a woman on the team, far more work gets done. Not wasting time BSing or making lewd/crude comments, and other adolescent antics. More follow up done by everyone, as well as validation of roles and responsibilities. I *knew* any tasks assigned to any female team member would get done, and on time. I could never say that about *most* of my male IT colleagues. My female management made an effort to be clear in explanations and expectations in my job role.

pharrington
pharrington

...and most of those small minded people will not admit that there are differences between the sexes. Don't get me wrong- I think the anecdote was an egregious violation of decorum and the man who made the statement was shooting himself in the foot. However, when speaking in general terms, men and women have their respective strengths and weaknesses. When the young couple was stranded in the blizzard in Colorado, it was the husband who went to seek help while the wife stayed with the baby, not the other way around. If you don't understand why, consider yourself small minded.

jdclyde
jdclyde

yes, this is a fact. While it is becoming rarer, it will still be found on occasion, in all walks of life. As long as there are reverse discrimination laws, it will generate resentment in new generations that otherwise would have never even though twice about something as petty as gender or race.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Really no excuse for a comment like that at all. Bet his mother would have been proud to hear him say it!

pworlton
pworlton

Despite the potential barb of my post, I appreciate the fact that you (Dana) looked past it. You've illustrated that nobody can truly offend anyone else - you can only be the one offended, and only by your own choice. I wish there was a little less fear of saying the wrong thing in the workplace. It annoys me that I have to worry if a comment like, "You look nice today," could be taken as sexual harrassment. That type of environment makes it very difficult to have a casual, friendly conversation unless you are into sports (which I am not).

Dana44
Dana44

I do think I look pretty good today. To me your comment was not sexist.

pworlton
pworlton

Nothing hotter than a female geek. Wait...was that sexist? Darn!

maecuff
maecuff

It's a matter of respect. If you aren't shown respect simply based on gender, then there is a problem.

Dana44
Dana44

I know that I don't have the technical experience of some of my coworkers, but I believe that I am just as good or perhaps better than them in "bridging the gap" between the techincal explaination given to the users and the user's understanding of things. All I am saying is stop compairing yourself to a man. No matter how much you might wish it you will never be a man, so you might as well be proud of who you are. It is your choice to work twice as hard, maybe learning to work twice as smart would get you farther.

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