Door Opens for More Female CIOs at Universities

The decline in the percentage of university CIOs who are women may be reversed as more male CIOs retire, a new study says.

There has been a slow, steady decline in the percentage of female CIOs in higher education, but that trend could reverse itself in the next decade, according to research from the Center for Higher Education CIO Studies (CHECS).

Currently, 21 percent of university CIOs are women, down from 26 percent in 2008. But among CIOs, more men than women are planning to retire in the next 10 years, opening the door for more women.

That's one finding of the center's wide-ranging survey of 360 CIOs in higher education. Wayne Brown, founder of CHECS, says many factors may have kept women from becoming CIOs, including the fact that they are less likely than men to have a computer-science degree. The study reports that 51 percent of university management teams say CIOs should have had a technology major.

Management teams also prefer CIOs with advanced degrees, the study says, adding that there's a correlation between the level of the CIO's degree and who they report to. Forty-four percent of university CIOs with doctorates report to the CEO, compared to 30 percent of CIOs with master's degrees and 26 percent of those with bachelor's degrees.

Brown, a former CIO, says it's crucial for the CIO to have a seat at the management table and, at present, only 32 percent of university CIOs report to the CEO, which is an all-time low in the 10-year-old study. "If you report to the CFO, you may never have contact with the other VPs," he says. "[CIOs] make huge, expensive decisions all the time, and they could be doing it in a vacuum."

The lack of CIOs at the management table could be a result of management teams that still don't view CIOs as true leaders, Brown says. Management teams ranked leadership as the third-most-important skill CIOs should have, behind communication and technical knowledge.

Lauren Brousell is a staff writer for CIO magazine. Follow her on Twitter @LBrousell. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

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This story, "Door Opens for More Female CIOs at Universities" was originally published by CIO.

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