Learn From Mentors

By Anna Maria Virzi Print this article Print

Women are severely underrepresented in all top corporate leadership positions, including chief information officer, but don't let the numbers spook you, say three CIOs, an executive recruiter and a global consultant. Savvy companies are starting to recogn

Consultant Judy Arteche-Carr: Learn From Mentors

Judy Arteche-Carr, chair of the Society for Information Management's (SIM) New York Metro chapter, is a strategic adviser to global companies. She previously worked at technology services companies such as Unisys and EDS, as well as JP Morgan. Arteche-Carr studied communications arts as an undergraduate at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, and received an M.B.A. in finance from New York University. She got her start in information technology as an "accident," when she was working on budgeting and planning global technology costs for Salomon Brothers, now part of Citigroup. Arteche-Carr is also a 2007 SIM International Board member.

Q. What three tips do you have for women interested in becoming a CIO?

1. Focus on the job at hand. Let people know what your role is and what you are trying to achieve, and how it will benefit the person, team and company.

2. Get mentors—both formal and informal ones.

Formal mentors include executive coaches, since they work with a CIO objectively in the transformation to the next level. Some executive recruiting firms have advised companies to retain executive coaches for CIOs going into a new and bigger job to guide that CIO to face new challenges.

Informal mentors include peers in the industry who can constructively critique actions and be open to sharing their own experiences. Learning from each other and helping one another are key to a CIO's success.

3. Know the business: Align technology ideas with business strategy and initiatives. Don't be afraid to speak up and give recommendations. The CIO needs to do due diligence and get support either internally or externally. Q. What can be done to encourage more women to pursue careers in information technology?

SIM recognizes there is a low percentage of women in I.T. management. We make it a point to have women represented on international and chapter boards around the country, to ensure that we have diversity of ideas. We have panel discussions that celebrate women leaders and get their perspectives, which should help encourage management teams to create diverse workforces. And that should help create bottom-line results.

Q. How can a woman's leadership perspective help a company's bottom line?

There has been research that shows that diverse teams come up with more creative solutions.

Q. Do you think there is a gender gap in information technology?

Yes, I do. Women are not represented as much in I.T. because of usual stereotype labels that are prevalent. And when they are represented, women often stay back—they are often hesitant—and contribute to that stereotype. The soft skills that women have are undervalued, because metrics used in performance ratings are more task-oriented. And the soft skills that require a task's completion are not taken into account in performance reviews. That is why a lot of women undertake assignments that require an understanding of a lot of processes and navigation of cultural differences and silos. I believe there is an opportunity for women to shine in the new global business models.

Q. Are there any particular issues that women need to be aware of when they work on international projects?

A. During most of my experience [overseas], I did not run into gender bias; there is the occasional gender-related comment, not necessarily different from that in the U.S. However, I ignore it and focus on getting the job done. In international projects, women—and men—need to know cultural issues of the particular countries, since it impacts a quick understanding of why and how team members make decisions to get the job done.

Example: Managing a team from Frankfurt, Germany, that included virtual members—all men—located in the U.K. and U.S. of diverse backgrounds. I was dubbed an "American" because I was driving a hard deadline to meet a client need. I outlined what was expected, and was able to get members working as a team and met the deadline.

Q. Did you ever hit a glass ceiling? If so, what did you do about it?

Yes. I looked for newer challenges and a different manager. Invariably, I learned that having a mentor helps guide you through the corporate maze and understand what is important.

Next page: Know Your Incompetencies

This article was originally published on 2006-12-20
Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.
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