This month is dedicated to celebrating women in technology, as well as innovation in the Internet of Things. Half of the U.S. workforce is made up of women, but males outnumber women in tech jobs—especially in leadership roles.
In male-dominated industries, it can be difficult to attract and retain talented, qualified women. In the coming month of June, I will spend even more time talking about what we can do to change this reality. But for this blog, I will just point out the reality that it’s just sad that we still haven’t come far enough.
Diversity in the workplace is often really important to companies looking to bring well-rounded, successful products and services to market. Thankfully, there are so many stellar exceptions to the rule—women who have a passion for the IoT and who have risen through the ranks at tech companies to become leaders guiding the industry forward.
These executives are role models for young women and men who want to break into this exciting field. I’m thrilled that I get the privilege to speak to a couple of these women at least once in a while throughout the year. More it’s really exciting that at least once a year when we announce our Women of M2M awards, I get the thrill of talking to several over a few weeks during my podcasts when I feature them all month long during the month of June.
So what can the numbers tell us about the women in tech? According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, in 2016, women held 57% of professional occupations in the U.S. workforce. Women held 26% of the United States’ professional computing occupations in 2016, and 20% of Fortune 100 CIO positions were held by women in 2016. However, according to Boardroom Insiders’ look at female CIOs, the percentage of women in this top tech spot (CIO) is headed in the absolute wrong direction.
In 2015, the number was 24%, compared to 20% in 2016. If you increase the sample size a bit and look at Fortune 500 companies instead of just the Fortune 100, it’s the same story in terms of a downward trend.
Some 17.4% of Fortune 500 companies had female CIOs in 2015, and that number dropped to just 15% in 2016. It’s clearly too early to see what will happen in 2017, but I hope we don’t see this trend continue.
Happily, as I said at the outset, there are some outstanding examples of female leadership in the industry. That is why each year here at Connected World magazine, we highlight 42 executives as part of our Women of M2M list. We accept nominations from the industry and do our own internal research to find dozens of IoT c-suite executives who break the mold—not just by being female, but also through their incredible leadership.
Since 2013, we’ve been celebrating women, and each year it is one of my favorite endeavors we undertake as a staff. Often, our women of M2M winners are just remarkable and truly delightful people. More than that, they tend to be really inspirational individuals.
Each year, we end up with an amazing mix of entrepreneurs, inventors, pioneers, engineers, visionaries, and corporate-track executives who start early at a company and climb the corporate ladder.
We end up with young women who shot up the ranks at established companies, and even more experienced women who’ve jumped ship to work at fresh new startups, and everything in between.
As we talk to these executives and build our annual Women of M2M list, we discovered that many have faced gender-related hurdles in their careers. Some are quite vocal about how being a woman has affected their professional journeys. Others recognize that the hurdles are there, but prefer not to dwell on it for various reasons. There are a couple of consistent themes that I’ve noticed over the years.
First: a focus on innovation. Every single year, it’s impossible to not to be amazed at the innovative potential these leaders bring to the table. It’s clearly a key trait for a leader in the IoT to be willing to look out at the horizon and then figure out how to take steps toward that future. It requires forward thinking, excellent leadership skills, and no small amount of bravado to do this. So many of our current and past Women of M2M winners possess these traits and skills—forward thinking, effective leadership, and bravado—and more.
Another trend that is apparent year after year is our winners’ involvement in their communities. This is so empowering. It’s a scary world out there. We recently witnessed that tragic incident in Manchester that targeted young people, and there are way too many other examples of bad people doing bad things. So it’s refreshing to see good people doing good things, especially people in an industry I hold so dear.
Each and every one of these ladies is making the world a better place by moving the needle with IoT innovation and adoption. However, when you see that these c-suite executives carve time out of their busy lives to help their communities, and particularly young people, it gives us all a lot of hope for the future.
One common way our Women of M2M tend to pay it forward is by mentoring up-and-comers at their companies and beyond. Many women are particularly involved in programs that encourage young women and girls to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. If we want to turn the tide in technology and make the c-suite a more diverse place, this is an important start. Having women role models go before them will encourage girls to see tech jobs as both desirable and attainable.
This month, The Peggy Smedley Show will truly be an inspirational one for both men and women, as I sit down one-on-one sharing with you the firsthand stories of some of this year’s Women of M2M. I will be asking these amazing women: How did they get where they are now? Why did they choose tech in the first place? Did they face gender-related hurdles? What can the industry do to remove gender-related hurdles? What do they plan to do with their leadership power that will benefit the IoT space? And how will they use what they learned to help inspire the next generation of women? These women have shown they lead with conviction, honor, and grace, and perhaps that is the best way to mentor and pay it forward to the next generation.
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