women IT

6 pieces of advice for women aspiring to IT leadership

At EDUCAUSE's annual conference, a panel of four female IT leaders sat down for a frank discussion on gender bias and workplace advancement

EDUCAUSE is, at least in my experience, traditionally attended by and filled with content from mostly white men, so it was very refreshing to see an all-female panel offering advice for fellow women aspiring to leadership roles in IT.

The session addressed issues such as conscious and unconscious gender bias, how to identify role models and mentors, and how to build the skills necessary to lead an IT team.

The topic comes at a time of heightened tensions around gender bias and sexual harassment in the IT field, and the conversation was especially timely given the atmosphere of outspoken protest against gender inequality. Tech giant Google has faced huge internal backlash and an international employee walkout over the way it has handled–or hasn’t handled–accusations of sexual harassment against male executives.

Panelists included:

  • Celeste Schwartz, vice president for information technology and chief digital officer at Montgomery County Community College and 2018 EDUCAUSE Leadership Award Recipient
  • Sue Workman, vice president for university technology/CIO at Case Western Reserve University
  • Sharon Pitt, vice president for information technologies at the University of Delaware
  • Melissa Woo, senior vice president for IT and CIO, Stony Brook University

Moderator Steven Burrell, VPIT and CIO at Northern Arizona University, offered up a mix of pre-populated questions and audience-submitted questions.

1. Women continue to face significant obstacles on the path to IT leadership roles. What activities, initiatives, and efforts are particularly effective at raising awareness and creating positive change in diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Pitt: “At my own institution, I’m pleased that some folks within my organization started a Women in Technology group. As much as possible, I try to engage in diversity activities that happen [around me]. I think there’s a lot we can do, and you’d be surprised how the smallest effort has such a big impact, such as asking my staff to participate in HR activities around understanding and privilege.”

Laura Ascione