How do they get there? How do they stay there?
Women in the corner office
(IDG) -- Toyota Motor Sales' CIO spoke with candor recently about the complexities facing IT leaders. The senior-level IT professionals attending the IS Associates Spring 2001 meeting at UCLA seemed to be in awe of Toyota's Barbra Cooper.
And it was impossible not to wonder how Cooper made it to the top of the tech hill at a Japanese auto manufacturer. What was it about Cooper that put her -- and more important kept her -- on the path to an executive office?
"No matter what anyone says," says Cooper, "to get to the top positions requires a combination of dedicated mental bandwidth and plain, old-fashioned time commitment to compete with the guys who possibly have a spouse who does not work."
There's no doubt that Cooper and other women holding executive titles are largely responsible for their career successes. But why is it that a woman in the corner office still holds such fascination? Could it be because she's still so rare?
Results from an online survey of 265 members of WorldWIT offer some answers. These women -- roughly half in senior-level positions -- are making positive gains in new-economy companies but still find that balancing personal and professional lives is complex.
The upside: A majority, 73 percent, of survey respondents from WorldWIT said that working in the new economy brings "an exhilarating sense of achievement, impact, satisfaction, and opportunity for creative freedom they didn't have before."
With this positive personal valuation of their work and the level of achievement that women find in information technology, the survey concludes that women are willing to tolerate the not-so-positive aspects.
The downsides: The survey revealed the difficulties of discrimination and stress.
Almost one-third of the respondents said they felt they don't get equal treatment. But gender wasn't the sole factor in their view. Their status in the IT industry either as a single woman, working mother, or older woman contributed to their perceptions of discrimination.
The stress of discrimination
Surprisingly, discrimination wasn't the downside most frequently cited by survey respondents. Stress was. More than two-thirds of the survey respondents listed stress from a 'round-the-clock work life, constant change and the difficulty of balancing work and family and personal lives.
The fast-paced life and collision of working and personal lives, brings a not-so-surprising result: Forty-one percent of respondents said they're considering leaving their jobs.
Addressing the issue of stress and work-life balance isn't as challenging as some say -- and isn't solely a women's issue. With more frequency, men are making career decisions with stress and family in mind. Hours, commutes and flexibility are important to the fathers in the crowd, too.
The issues for women in the workplace include face time vs. personal time; personal and professional tradeoffs; career paths; time off and re-entry into the work force; workplace flexibility; deadlines; pressure; management styles; training; and mentoring opportunities. But many observers say women need to lead these discussions and lead the changes they want to see take place.
Successful CIOs, as Cooper put it during her IS Associates presentation, must keep the company's intellectual DNA and must always help their people.
Coming Friday from CNN's Allison Tom: The latest on Aliza Sherman, founder of Cybergrrl and Webgrrls International -- here on CNN.com/Career and CNN television.
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