The secret to boosting women in IT? Men

Male allies can open doors, broaden networks and advocate for female tech pros. Guys, ready to step up?

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Kathy Fuertes has steadily climbed the corporate ladder during her 27 years in IT, often with a gentle push from male colleagues who had her back.

Early on, as many of her male counterparts made the leap from programmer into IT management, they encouraged her to do the same. Years later, when an opportunity to cross over into business leadership came her way, it was a male ally who gave Fuertes the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and stretch for what she thought was an out-of-reach position.

Kathy Fuertes Vanguard

Vanguard's Kathy Fuertes says male allies gave her the confidence to stretch for new roles even though she "didn't have every box checked."

"We really need to make sure women aren't holding themselves back, and men can play an important role in that," says Fuertes, now principal, head of information technology for the Institutional Investor Group at Vanguard. "Seeing how they viewed my general leadership competencies, my relationships, my empathy, and my ability to coach and mentor really made me take pause. They gave me confidence that I could take on a role even though I didn't have every box checked."

While much has been made about the importance of female mentors and peer groups for women rising in tech, girl power alone is not enough to guarantee success in what's still a male-dominated field.

Based on sheer numbers alone, it's clear there are a lot more male than female shoulders to lean on for coaching, problem solving, networking and career advice for navigating the politics of corporate IT.

Read on for details from Fuertes and executives from GoDaddy, EMC and other tech firms on ways that male allies can help advance a female tech pro's career -- acting as a conduit for new opportunities, opening up access to a larger, potentially more influential circle of contacts and helping her prep for subsequent leadership roles.

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