Female CIOs are making innovation happen

Fiona CapstickFiona Capstick, Executive Director IT Advisory, UKI, talks about female CIOs who “Make it Happen.”

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which took place on 8 March, was “Make it Happen.” That is a particularly fitting theme for female CIOs, who are having a bigger say in leading innovation in the IT space.

The impact of female CIOs is being felt across the globe and within the Fortune 500. In January this year, the number of women rose significantly from the 2012 figure of 61. But we continue to see regional differences and there is still opportunity for more women in the top spots in many countries.

Diversity and innovation

The growing diversity among IT leaders is welcome news, and it chimes with the need for innovation in IT.

Organizations used to have static and stable IT environments, in which there were infrequent but sizeable investments in technology, such as mainframes.

In today’s connected digital world, new technologies, such as apps and software-as-a-service, mean that IT operations must work with constant change. Collaboration and co-innovation are critical.

This is where the profile of female CIOs comes to the fore. Female leaders have a strong propensity to collaborate and share information, and to display empathy and emotional intelligence. And they have an aptitude for networking.

These attributes can make a strong contribution to innovation:

  • A human touch
    Innovation requires people in teams to work effectively together — to collaborate rather than compete.
    Very often, this process is about intuition and instinct, as people take their cues from one another, building on each other’s ideas and sharing their expertise.
  • A refreshing leadership style
    As businesses move from hierarchical to flatter structures, leaders need to work in a different way.
    Today’s organization is likely to include three or four generations of workers. And these generations have never been so different. Female leaders’ open style can bring together a broad range of people, harnessing their talents through collaboration and consensus.
  • A focus on the bigger picture
    Being a CIO is about much more than just being the guardian of technical expertise and resources.
    Organizations need leaders who can see the bigger picture — leaders who can look beyond technical requirements to see the strategy required to thrive in a digital world.
  • An ability to communicate
    As they seek to meet the needs of the digitized organization, CIOs must be able to articulate their vision.
    Social media and participatory techniques, such as crowdsourcing, are becoming more prevalent. And this will make female CIOs’ open style and willingness to experiment with new communication channels even more crucial.

As is true for all other functions, from marketing to finance, IT has to build trust and partnership with the wider business. And the growing impact of female CIOs will help achieve that.

By improving openness, transparency and communication, female CIOs can raise the reputation and value perception of the IT function and help make innovation happen.

Learn how EY is helping to accelerate women’s progress in the workplace. Discover our Women. Fast forward program.


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