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More Women Are Making It to the CIO Level

“Our clients are looking to tackle this challenge. The good news is that the numbers are moving in the right way,” said Craig Stephenson, managing director of Korn Ferry’s North America CIO/CTO division.

The proportion of women also rose for chief financial officer and chief marketing officer roles, according to the analysis, while it was flat for chief executives and chief human resources officers.

To have a greater impact, firms must institute a culture of diversity, which should be promoted by the board and the CEO, Mr. Stephenson said. Candidates have many choices about where they want to work, and they want to see an organization committed to diversity and inclusion, he added.

CIOs and CTOs should also place more emphasis on diversity when hiring, opening up opportunities for a diverse set of employees within the technology organization to ascend through the ranks, he said.

Sheila Jordan, chief information officer at cybersecurity tools company


, said men in senior positions must be willing to sponsor women as they build their careers, giving them the same opportunities and consideration when high-level jobs become available.

“Having a more diverse workforce is financially beneficial for companies, and having diverse perspectives and role models that match your customer base are also becoming increasingly important,” Ms. Jordan said.

Without ensuring that the slate of senior job candidates is truly diverse, the industry will “continue to have the same distribution of individuals in these roles,” she said.

Technology executives at large companies have recently told CIO Journal they are doubling down on strategies aimed at reducing barriers for women and minorities, both to foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace and to boost the bottom line.

Their efforts include funding educational programs at the high school and college level, seeking to encourage more young women and minority students to pursue careers in tech, they say. Many said they are also developing internal corporate training, resource and discussion groups that support efforts to promote diversity.

Companies such as

United Technologies

are also investing in Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that provides intensive education in computer science to high-schoolers in the U.S. and Canada. The company’s multiyear commitment of more than $1 million will help the organization expand its computer science training programs in the U.S., and, in turn, increase the pool of female technologists from which to hire.

Such partnerships could help, but a combination of diversity-focused efforts will have more impact, Mr. Stephenson said. Existing female employees should also be exposed to a range of opportunities within the company to develop leadership skills such as change management and digital transformation, he said.

That will put women in a position to be better prepared for an executive role. “All of that comes through experience, perspective and visibility into a range of challenges,” Mr. Stephenson said.

Write to Sara Castellanos at and Angus Loten at