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Giving the “IT Girl” a Whole New Meaning – By: Suma Nallapati

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By Suma Nallapati, CIO for the State of Colorado

We’ve all seen the headlines on the Hollywood tabloids: Jennifer Lawrence is the new “it” girl… Emma Watson is the new “it” girl… or in comedy, Amy Schumer might be the new “it” girl. I challenge you all to take this phrase and turn it on its head — give “it” new meaning.

I am proud to be an “IT girl.” And by “IT”, I mean Information Technology. I was fortunate. I have always navigated a world where I was one of the only females in any number of educational or professional experiences. And therefore, it was second nature to me to handle those situations. However, I believe many women in IT find that as they narrow the scope of their professional direction, they face daunting statistics: in 2014, women made up only 26 percent of professional computing occupations. Even more stunning is that only 6 percent of corporate Chief Information Officer positions were held by women in 2014.*

As a  woman and an IT leader in Colorado, I believe it is my responsibility to give women equal footing with men in the workplace. My executive leadership team, which is comprised of four women and two men, is actually quite a different gender makeup than the private sector, where men account for well over 60 percent of leadership teams. Additionally, Colorado’s state IT employees are among the most gender-diverse of our 50 states.  Our 900 employees are made up of 63% men and 37% women which is more gender parity than Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Intel. I am very proud of those statistics, and I think it is a testament both to the IT skills women can bring to the table and also the progressive nature of Colorado’s IT workforce.

No matter where you are or what statistics you face, there are several ways that IT girls can gain ground. I believe these are several key ingredients.

  • Find a mentor. Or, better yet, a sponsor. Someone who will track your IT career and who has a vested interest in seeing you go far. Let them be a sounding board to maneuver difficult situations and weigh in on choices about your career.
  • Confidence. If you know you can do it, others will see that spark in you and give you opportunities.
  • Direction. Know where you want to go. Try to visualize your starting point, your end point, and everything in between. Without seeing that path, it will take you much longer to reach your goals.
  • Be intentional. Make smart choices and make those opportunities happen. Don’t just accept your current role. Take on the assignments that will lead you to the position you want.

I know being an IT girl is anything but easy. But we can make a difference and I encourage you to take the challenge. We need more women in tech. As Colorado’s CIO I can tell you that information technology is one of the most rewarding professions out there. And if you are an IT girl, I encourage you to take a picture of yourself with a sign that says: I’m an IT girl! Then post it to Twitter with the hashtag #ITgirlsrock. Let’s see if we can redefine what “IT girl” really means.


*Source: National Center for Women & Technology, 2014


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Suma Nallapati

About Suma Nallapati

Sumana (Suma) Nallapati is an accomplished technology leader with experience in establishing and executing value-driven global IT service strategy and delivery. She is a “people” leader who builds high performance teams within multi-cultural, globally distributed workforce through mentoring, coaching and inspiration. Appointed in June 2014 as Colorado’s Secretary of Technology and Chief Information Officer, Suma is committed to positioning the Governor’s Office of Information Technology as a leader in IT innovation for state government.