Universities appear due for a female CIO boom

Though their numbers have been in steady decline for the past several years, there may soon be a new resurgence of female chief information officers in higher ed.

According to information in Dr. Wayne A. Brown's latest report, “2013 Study of the Higher Education Chief Information Officer Roles and Effectiveness,” colleges and universities may soon see a significant increase in the percentage of female CIOs after a 5% decline to 21% since 2008.  The study is part of a 10-year project Brown conducted using the Qualtrics platform.

“I think the reason that it has happened up to this point is a couple of things,” says Brown. “One, female CIOs were retiring younger, female tech leaders did not show as much interest in the job as male tech leaders and I think education background probably has something to do with it, too.”

Indeed, only 18% of computer science undergraduates in 2010 were female. In addition, only 40% of female technology leaders expressed interest in becoming CIOs, compared to 63% of males. Additionally, in 2011 and 2012, the percentage of female CIOs planning to retire in the next 10 years was 7% higher than that of males (55% versus 48% in 2012).

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The retirement rate for females over the next 10 years, however, has fallen to 47% while males planning retirement during that time period increased to 50%. This reversal of roles is a positive sign, says Brown, as is the consistent number of female tech leaders who have reported CIO interests in the last three years. Additionally, females were more likely to be hired for CIO positions internally than externally when compared to male counterparts, and the number of female in the tech leader position—considered the pipeline for the CIO job—increased 7 points to 40% since 2008.

“I think, overall, more women have an advanced degree when you look at these groups, and it's a requirement,” says Brown. “When I asked the institution management team members—those are the those other vice presidents and presidents—what degree's required, 95% of them say you have to have an advanced degree, and more women have an advanced degree than men.”

Higher education has long had a higher percentage of females in CIO positions than other industries, and between 1990 and 2008, the percentage of women in the position made a staggering jump from 7% to 26%. While Brown concedes that a time delay may exist between the trends and the change in percentage of female CIOs, he remains optimistic that the number of women in the higher ed CIO world will rise again in the near future.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Technology