To find out why that might be the case, CIO.com interviewed three well-respected women CIOs, representing three different industries: Helen Cousins, executive vice president and CIO of Lincoln Trust Company; Twila Day, senior vice president and CIO of Sysco Corporation; and Stephanie Reel, vice provost for information Technologies, Johns Hopkins University, and vice president for information services, Johns Hopkins Medicine.
CIO.com: Do women CIOs or aspiring CIOs face unique challenges? If so, what are they?
Helen Cousins (HC): Women as CIOs do face unique challenges. No matter how far women have advanced up the corporate ladder, it is still a man's world at the top level of most organizations. Being in technology, or any executive position back in the 70s and 80s, there were very few women, especially in international banking on Wall Street. I always felt I had to work twice as hard and put in twice the number of hours as my male counterparts.
Helen Cousins, executive vice president and CIO of Lincoln Trust Company While things have improved, I do think that women are more often asked to prove that they can commit fully to job, especially if they have a family since the mother is still viewed as the major caretaker of the children. You will often find that when speaking with successful executive women, they either have no children or they have a husband or partner who has taken on a lot of parenting responsibilities.
My advice would be that if you are serious about wanting that top position, you are going to have to work hard at it and have many concrete successes along the way.
CIO.com: What advice do you have for women aspiring to become CIOs?
Twila Day, senior vice president and CIO of Sysco Corporation Twila Day (TD): A CIO must become more of a businessperson who understands how to apply technology to solve business needs. That being said, I would tell anyone interested in being a CIO they should learn everything they can. Volunteer for new projects at work. You [also] need great communication skills. Find ways of honing your ability to customize your message for the audience and in a way that is in business speak.
Stephanie Reel (SR): Understand the business you wish to work in. Read everything you canâ€”and listen very carefully. Always tell the truth - and do what you say you are going to do. Set high expectationsâ€”and work hard to achieve them.
Stephanie Reel, vice provost for information Technologies, Johns Hopkins University, and vice president for information services, Johns Hopkins Medicine. HC: Have a goal and go after it. Always hire great people to work for you. Then help them to be successful. Form strong strategic partnerships along the way. Volunteer for assignments outside your specific [area]. Understand the business and what the challenges are: Be a business person first and a technologist second. Market yourself within your organization. Publish your success stories and back them up with analytics.
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