Although much has been written recently about gender inequality in the workplace in general and in IT in particular, a study from IT research firm Gartner indicates women chief information officers may hold the upper hand when it comes to budgets and digital leadership confidence.
The survey, which was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2013 and included 2,339 CIOs, representing more than $300 billion in CIO IT budgets in 77 countries, found female CIOs expect to increase their IT budgets 2.5 percent, where as male CIOs report an average increase of 0.2 percent.
Among the respondents to the 2014 Gartner CIO Agenda survey, 13.2 percent were women. However, the report noted it was disappointing that the overall percentage of women in the role had not grown significantly in the last 10 years.
In addition, when comparing the survey results on digital leadership, female CIOs were slightly more confident about their enterprise's ability to deal with the wave of digital opportunities.
For instance, just under half (49 percent) of female CIOs expressed concern that the digital torrent is coming faster than they can cope, while slightly more male CIOs (51 percent), shared this concern.
The top three priorities for both genders were identical in sequence, with business intelligence (BI) and analytics as the top priority, followed by infrastructure and data center, with mobile in third position.
Cloud ranked slightly higher for women than it did for men, who placed enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems in fourth position and cloud in fifth. Overall, there were virtually no significant differences in the top 10 technology priorities based on gender.
"The survey data is encouraging in that it shows many positive similarities between women and men in the CIO role. They share similar reporting lines, priorities and technical challenges in the enterprise," Tina Nunno, research vice president in Gartner's CIO Research group, said in a statement. "This is good news, and boards and CEOs should have confidence that gender is simply not an issue relative to strategic focus. Indeed, few variations in gender data show that women are embracing some digital trends in the same way as their male counterparts and, in some cases, even more so."
The report also noted the overall increase in budget for female CIOs may be correlated with subsequent data that shows a slightly higher incidence of chief digital officers (CDOs) in enterprises where female CIOs are present.
This may account for the increase in budget overall, with a slightly larger percentage of female CIOs' IT budgets being outside of the IT department, the research indicated.
As mentioned, female CIOs are also more likely to have a CDO present in the enterprise than their male counterparts. 8.9 percent of the women had a CDO present in their organization, whereas just 6 percent of the male CIOs reported having a CDO. A quarter of the CDOs were women.
"[This] may be an early indicator of women's affinity for the role or of some difference in the backgrounds of male and female executives that may bear further study and examination," Nunno said.