I’m optimistic about women’s leadership in technology companies and here’s why.

Last week I attended the 4th annual Women in the IT Channel luncheon, celebrating four women leaders in the Canadian technology sector. The honourees were Lesley Andrews of Compucom Canada Co., Julie Cloutier of ESI Technologies, Joanna Strong of Commerx and Janice Siddons of TUC Managed IT Solutions.  These four impressive women plus one up and coming young recipient, Laura Wittig of Clear Concepts demonstrate that it’s time for women in IT to own their “swagger,” as one of the speakers aptly said.

The leadership and business achievements of these women alone represent five reasons to be optimistic for women’s leadership in tech.  The other three reasons for optimism grew out of the conversation at the lunch table. I was fortunate to be seated with one of the honourees, Janice Siddons, COO of TUC  Managed IT Solutions – an Ottawa-based service provider whose current revenues are in excess of $30 million.  At the table, we had an engaging conversation about the convergence of meta trends that are creating shifts in the technology sector, and bode well for women to take on greater leadership.

Here are the three significant trends we talked about:

1. Breakdown of hierarchy

Traditionally in IT and technology companies (and truthfully, in most business sectors) the path to the leadership was a highly structured hierarchy, consisting of a tall ladder of “old boys.”  Now the business model for most organizations has fewer levels, and is matrixed across teams and functions. In flatter and matrixed organizations, leadership roles are more accessible, creating points of entry for women to take on first and mid-level leadership roles that can lead to senior roles. Importantly, in matrix structures with multiple relationships across teams, communications skills are a key to creating success.  Women, who often possess strong communications skills, can have an advantage in building the relationships it takes to work well and succeed in a matrix organization.

2. Customer Experience/Service orientation

More and more the technology business is becoming about the user or the customer — their needs and experience.  Technology solutions are more visibly oriented to service of the customer, and organizations are more customer-centric in their focus and offerings. At lunch, we talked about how women, who have generally been raised to be attuned to others needs and wants, can be strong leaders and advocates for the customer, where customer focus is the key to success in the future of technology organizations.

3. Technology

Technology itself is enabling greater flexibility in the workplace of technology companies, and indeed all businesses.  Flexiblity about where, when and how to work, enables women, and men, to lead remote teams, participate in business activities from home, and schedule around personal commitments in ways we couldn’t just five years ago.

In all, that gives me eight reasons to be optimistic for women’s leadership in technology companies.  And as we did at the Women in the IT Channel luncheon, that’s something to recognize and celebrate!

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