Research shows women breaking glass ceiling in IT

Emily Iazzetti Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

Although information technology may historically be known as a male-dominated field, a recent graduate and Baylor professor found that the female presence in IT leadership is slowly but surely growing.

“One of the things we were trying to do with the chief information officers is show that these are women that have made it to the top, broken barriers and moved through boundaries that are out there for women in the IT field,” Dr. Cindy Riemenschneider, associate dean for research and faculty development and professor of information systems, said. “Essentially, we wanted to visit with these ladies and find out what their stories were and what types of things allowed them to reach the place where they were in their career.”

As a master’s student, Emily Iazzetti, a Baylor alumna and current stay-at-home mom, was required to do an independent study and worked closely with Riemenschneider to conduct these interviews and do analysis and coding from a research standpoint. The women interviews were CIOs from higher education, construction engineering firms, real estate, transportation, entertainment and healthcare. Riemenschneider has looked at the challenges women face versus men in the IT field. This particular study, however, focused just on female CIOs, which was different from other studies Riemenschneider had done with females in a wide range of positions.

“There were so many things I found interesting,” Iazzetti said. “I really loved all the passion that the women had. They were all in different industries and had done very different things, but they were all so passionate about it and about their work, and that was really inspiring to me to see women who were really leading in their field and making strides in information technology.”

Iazzetti had been a television news anchor before starting graduate school. Iazzetti said she enjoyed the information that came from interviews as a journalist, so when the opportunity presented itself to do research with Riemenschneider, Iazzetti agreed in hopes of hearing all the stories of the CIOs. Iazzetti’s goal going into the project was to get information that would help other women start with their IT careers.

“At the end of all the interviews, Emily asked for advice they had for women in college,” Riemenschneider said. “They would all, ‘say don’t be limited, go out and take advantage of opportunities, explore different areas and don’t let structures that have been in place be inhibitors to you.'”

Riemenschneider said in this study, they found that a commonality for women who have reached such roles was the presence of mentors in their life to help them. Only 26 percent of workers employed in computer and mathematical occupations are women, according to the United States Department of Labor. Riemenschneider said that many women fear that they cannot have a family, but many of these CIOs said that it is possible to have a family and a career. Some things have to change, but families can actually be supportive structures in a careers, Riemenschneider said. 70 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force, and this number has been growing, according to the United States Department of Labor.

“I think the conversation is not over, it is still very much happening, of how can women get more involved in information technology and how can more women become leaders,” Iazzetti said. “I was glad to be able to publicly have that conversation and bring more attention to not just women working in IT, but women becoming leaders in IT.”