How to Get (And Keep) More Women in IT Positions

Solomon recently came alongside Kansas City Women in Technology, a new organization that aims to get more young women involved in IT and enable those already in the industry to advance their careers. I agreed to deliver the keynote address at KCWiT’s recent meeting and to lead a breakout session on IT consulting while Karen Blue, our VP, reviewed résumés. Darci Crow, Director of Consulting, provided mentoring for several eager women in technology.

I centered my talk on how women can define their value and either start or advance their IT career. To make sure the content was as helpful as possible, I did a lot of background research on trends in IT employment. Two of the most surprising stats were as follows:

  • Fifty-four percent of women in IT left the industry in the last 10 years.
  • Women get paid 10 to 12 percent less than men in IT.

When I combined this information with our day-to-day experiences at Solomon, I also realized that women often get paid less in IT positions because they ask for less money. That’s right – they’re not getting paid less than men for equivalent IT roles because the companies are discriminating, but because they’re actually asking for lower compensation. And many women are leaving IT because staying in an underpaid position is not worthwhile.

So why are women getting themselves a raw deal? There are several factors involved. First, women often act like they’re lucky to be considered for an IT position, and approach negotiating as such. It’s good to be grateful, but I wish women would erase the word “lucky” from their vocabulary regarding employment. You’re being considered for a job because you’ve worked hard, you’re talented and you deserve it. It’s not luck.

We also find that women are often worried that they won’t get a higher number, or feel like they don’t fit every aspect of a job description and don’t want to risk losing an offer. Knowing what you are capable of is as important as understanding what you can do. Male counterparts don’t often hesitate negotiating higher salaries for roles they know they still have to figure out. Most women, however, feel that if they work hard, prove themselves, and show what they can do, someone will take notice and reward them for it. Simply put: that is a road to nowhere!

This research led me to come up with four principles for KCWiT members, which apply to anyone who’s looking to negotiate from a strong position:

  1. Be confident. You are brilliant — now believe it!
  2. Be knowledgeable. Know the marketplace and understand what you should be earning in the form of dollars/vacation/title.
  3. Be persistent. Sometime you have to be as tough as nails and as warm as toast… just don’t quit.
  4. Be ready to walk. Be prepared to answer every response to your request. And if the response is not just, walk.

What it comes down to is simple: knowing your value, being able to explain it and not settling for less than you’re worth. If more women go in with a strong stance, we’ll help overcome the salary gender bias and be able to keep more women in IT.

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Grant Gordon stays motivated by making IT organizations better. From staffing, solutions building, and development, Grant and his teams become a single-source partner for the clients they work with. After building Intronic Solutions Group and selling the firm to a national public company in 2010, he built Solomon Consulting Group into Kansas' 3rd fastest growing company, and the nation's 207th fastest developing firm on Inc's 500 list for 2013.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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