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How 20 Minutes Can Lead to a More Inclusive Tech Workforce

Author: Barbara N. Wabwire, CISA, MBA, BIT, Business IT Consultant, CISA, MBA, BIT, Business IT Consultant
Date Published: 27, September 2019

If perceptions were always reality, why would a company that has hired professionals after conducting reasonable background checks be wary of internally orchestrated fraud and other white-collar crime? Why would an IT auditor obsess about the consistent integrity of systems and compliance?

Many in the audit industry would argue that regular audits will provide objective insights, uncover problems, ensure efficiency, assess risk of material misstatement, assess controls, promote accountability and compliance, and instill a sense of confidence in management that the business is doing “well” (assurance). If organizations are willing to go an extra mile to ensure optimal health of IT systems and are willing to invest in the necessary redundancy at all levels of infrastructure to reduce likelihood of unplanned system downtime, is a 20-minute time investment at recruitment and promotion interviews something we can consider as a worthwhile tradeoff to achieve gender inclusiveness in the technology industry?

Is it time for a gender audit in the technology industry? When we are told that men are more likely to be perceived as leaders than women, we might need to listen harder, understand the perception, dig deeper and try to appreciate this line of thinking. Is this much more a perception than a reality?

The reality: Gartner revealed that although women make up almost half of the workforce worldwide, only 31 percent of IT employees are women. This number falls further at leadership level to just 22 percent, and only 13 percent of CIOs are female.

Perception: In the absence of any other reasonable explanation, the statistical reality might explain, but not excuse, the photoshopping misadventure by Brunello Cucinelli’s “representative.” By trying to smuggle two top women executives into a picture of a male gathering of Silicon Valley executives in Italy, the “artist’s” crude and dismal attempt at gender mainstreaming the photograph (through Photoshop) was frustrated by technical pixel scrutiny. The glaring gender disparity reared its ugly head, and this time journalists’ credibility and professional integrity were put under microscopic scrutiny. 

Perception or reality? From the above statistics and scenario, we can infer a strong probability that a majority of the interview panelists for top executive positions are most likely to be male. We may, therefore, need to concern ourselves with the qualities and competences that most male top executives look for in prospective female leaders, if we are going to give equal representation a chance.

Backed by evidence: Matthew Biddle from the University at Buffalo contends that “Men are still more likely than women to be perceived as leaders. … Men tend to be more assertive and dominant, whereas women tend to be more communal, cooperative and nurturing. As a result, men are more likely to participate and voice their opinions during group discussions, and be perceived by others as leaderlike.” The article goes on to indicate that “the gender gap was strongest during the first 20 minutes people were together, similar to an initial job interview, but weakened after more than one interaction.”

The 20-minute finding is significant in demonstrating the effect of time lag between each gender’s effective responsiveness during such interactions; perhaps a longer lapse might be needed by some female interviewees to rid themselves of any reticence or inhibitions and fully engage to enable effective communication. Simply put, if women were afforded those 20 minutes, the perceptions and speculation about gender and leadership would blur, and women may begin to get an equal chance at qualifying for top positions. A top executive team with diversity in skills, gender and culture often leads to better performance and may attract more investment as well, as ensuring a strong business reputation and enhanced shareholder value maximization.

As a leader in your own right, would you consider giving female interviewees a 20-minute head start to level the playing field?

Editor’s note: For more resources on empowering women in the tech workforce, visit ISACA’s SheLeadsTech website.

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