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Understanding the femme factor in Asian I.T.

Zafar Anjum | Sept. 12, 2008
There is a behind-the-scenes secret I want to share with you, that emerged when I was researching my <i>CIO Asia</i> September 2008 story on women in Asian IT.

Looks like some animals from George Orwells The Animal Farm have jumped across the barnyard fences, taken the Titanic, survived the sinking and, in a Disneyesque fashion, offloaded themselves from the circus van to the arena of real politics. In the US of A.

Otherwise, what are the hockey moms and change makers doing with pitbulls and pigs, and even threatening to apply lipstick to them?

While all this might sound so macho for the politicians and create the impression that women are taking a tough fight to us men, in a predominantly made-dominated arena - in real politics (and here, I mean the US politics) - the truth is a tad tamer. How else would you explain why the US of A, the most powerful democracy the world has ever seen, has never had a female President? Even the political darling of the moment, the self-proclaimed Sarah Palin, is just a vice presidential nominee of the G.O.P.

In contrast, Asia, home to some of the worlds youngest democracies, has seen many women leading their nations, as prime ministers or presidents, including Indira Gandhi in India, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, Megawati in Indonesia, Sheikh Hasina and Khalida Zia in Bangladesh, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Chandrika Kumaratunga in Sri Lanka, and Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Philippinesto name a few. This is quite remarkable for Asia because they all beat men in closely fought elections in largely male dominant socio-cultural societies.

Interestingly, the same kind of scenario is also emerging in the field of IT. Dont get me wrong, I am not claiming that the West does not have many women IT leaders and female workers in the tech sector. It has. And it has had them for sometime now. But things seem to be changing back to the conservative side of the see-saw. There have been reports that the number of women in the IT industry in the West, is now declining.

In contrast, many IT leaders in Asia feel that the participation of women in IT here is on the rise. You can read all about it in my CIO Asia magazine cover story (September 2008): The femme factor: Asias Enterprise I.T. bucks the trend.

I will spare you the details because the issue is on the stands now. You can also read it online here and read full text of the interviews with female CIOs here.

However, I would like to share a behind the scenes secret with you, that I came across while researching my story.

I am glad that female CIOs and IT leaders, especially from companies such as Microsoft and HP, were very supportive of the research and fully cooperated with the interviews. Others were not so forthcoming. I am bringing this up because this affected my storys balance. I had wanted to bring in as many diverse voices as possible to my narrative.


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