The industry is taking action on an important need in information technology: gender diversity.

Several new initiatives, including Dream IT, are designed to advance the interest of girls in information tech careers and showcase women in leadership roles who are making significant strides in the industry and are great role models too. 

I was reminded of the many powerhouse women IT leaders recently at two events featuring extraordinary women in info tech, the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC and CompTIA's ChannelCon conference in Phoenix. Microsoft and the IAMCP Women in Technology hosted the first Women in Technology annual meeting. At ChannelCon, Elizabeth A. Hight, vice president, Cybersecurity Solutions Group, U.S. Public Sector, Hewlett-Packard Company, was the keynote speaker at a special dinner. 

"The pent-up demand for women in our eco-system to connect for the purpose of personal and professional fulfillment while attracting more women to consider careers in information technology is significant and growing. I am proud to be working alongside the IAMCP Women in Technology communities around the world to help make this happen, “ said Kati Quigley, senior director, WW Partner Community Events, Microsoft.

Another exciting new initiative called Dream IT was just launched by CompTIA.  Check out the two new websites linked to its Dream IT initiative.  This past weekend was Dream IT weekend and we encourage all of you to support it. “The primary barrier to interest in IT as a career is that young people – girls, especially – don’t understand the full range of options available to them,” said Nancy Hammervik, senior vice president, industry relations, CompTIA. “But when they’re exposed to specific job and career opportunities their interest level jumps,” Hammervik continued. “We’ve taken the next step to reach out directly to women and girls on the wonderful opportunities available to them in our industry.”

The new Career Resource Center features a robust collection of career information and resources, all aimed at delivering the message to women and girls that IT is a great place to work. The new Dream IT website houses ready-made presentation materials that can be used by anyone interested in spreading the message about the opportunities in the IT workforce for women and girls.

Dream IT is the brainchild of CompTIA’s Advancing Women in IT Community, a great group that includes women and men currently enjoying successful careers in IT. They share a common goal: to empower women and girls with the know-how and skills they need to launch and grow their own IT careers. The community has a goal of reaching 10,000 girls and women with the message that IT is a great career option, offering good pay, job stability and opportunities for advancement.

“Dream IT started with one seed of hope and has evolved into a blossoming program through the collaborative efforts of many women in our industry,” said Doriana Allyn, senior environmental health and safety manager for Brother International Corporation, and chair of the CompTIA Advancing Women in IT Community.

“These remarkable women have poured their hearts and souls into an initiative that creates a moment of ‘I can’ for the next generation by helping girls and women set off on their own career journeys.”

For women and girls interested in learning more about careers in IT, the comprehensive Career Resource Center has information on IT career options, tips for securing jobs, testimonials from women now in the IT workforce and links to organizations that provide opportunities for mentoring, STEM education and career guidance.

For Dream IT “evangelists” – women and men interested in spreading the word about IT career opportunities – the Dream IT site features ready-made presentation materials and resources that can be used as is or tailored for specific audiences. 

Other regional organizations like Advancing Women in Tech in California are shining the spotlight on extraordinary women.. AWT is accepting nominations for the 2014 Rising Women in Technology, looking to recognize up and coming females who are successfully establishing their careers in a variety of technology positions.   

We know there’s a lot to do to increase the number of women in the field, according to the scorecard on the status of women in tech released in April by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a non-profit community of more than 500 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women's participation in technology and computing, They found that more than half of professional occupations in the U.S. are held by women but the percentage of computing occupations held by women lags far behind. Only 26 percent of computing occupations are held by women.

“We are not taking advantage of our diverse population. The industry is failing to attract this talent. Indeed, those women already employed in the technology industry are leaving at staggering rates, so we’re not retaining either,” the study concluded. The report also made an important point that’s hard to argue with: gender diversity improves the bottom line. Technology companies with the highest representation of women in their senior management teams showed a higher return on equity than did those with fewer or no women in senior management.

Our Penton Technology Group sites — Windows IT Pro run by Amy Eisenberg, SharePoint Pro run by Caroline Marwitz, SQL Server Pro run by Jayleen Heft, MSPmentor run by Jessica Davis, The Var Guy and Talkin’ Cloud run by Charlene O’Hanlon, Windows Supersite run by Paul Thurrot and My IT Forum run by Rod Trent, will be doing our part by expanding our coverage and engagement of women in our industry.

I also want to issue a special invitation to the women in our audiences (men are invited too!) to join our new ExpertXchange, the expert network we launched for experts and professionals to share insights and inspirations to grow business and build careers.  If you are interested just drop me or any one of our team editor a note and we'll get you set up. Look forward to hearing from you.

Marcia Parker is Executive Director of Content and User Engagement at Penton's Technology Group.