Despite the progress made in recent years, gender balance within functional tech leadership remains an unmet promise. Chief technology officers (CTOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and other executive-level roles have yet to reach a truly equal representation between men and women, data sets typically show female representation ranging from 15-25%. CEOs and CHROs who are responsible for succession planning must take action to improve these numbers - however slow it might be moving, it is still necessary to make lasting change.

With women controlling approximately $31.8 trillion in consumer spending yearly, and the number only set to rise with more women stepping into the global workforce, it is crucial for businesses to develop gender-balanced leadership teams. Companies without a diverse tech management will fall behind their competitors - including decreasing their appeal as an employer for skilled female technologists. But what steps can progressive organizations take when searching for female talent that would make effective CTOs or CIOs?

To find success in tech executive hiring, we suggest the below pathways:

Nurture Internal Talent

Executives must actively devise succession plans to attain gender parity in senior tech roles such as CTO and CIO. Unfortunately, a lack of clear career paths, mentorship programs within companies, or low self-belief from female candidates can impede progress. To empower women interested in the field, initiatives ought to be enacted that sponsor females onto technical leadership pathways and provide them with coaching early on their journey. Supporting initiatives to bring women tech leaders into schools and universities can help support girls in STEM subjects. Offering flexible scheduling, more equitable parental leave policies, and flattened management structures must also be part of the equation for long-term success. Additionally, developing diverse generations of leadership pools by mapping external talent as well as creating emergency succession plans are other necessary steps to ensure an effective strategy.

Recruit for hybrid roles

Currently, the tech industry is experiencing an expansion in hybrid leadership roles, including positions like “chief product and technology officer” and “chief digital and information officer.” As opposed to solely being technical-centered roles, these compound positions are more strategically transformative due to their vast scope of duties. Hybrid leaders must possess both a collaborative mindset as well as an intrinsic understanding of customers' needs; traits that many female leaders possess naturally. By establishing these hybrid posts you can expand your candidate selection process by leaps and bounds.

To draw in more diverse applicants, it is essential to create job postings that welcome potential CTOs. Unfortunately, many tech roles come with unconscious bias and technical terms which may be intimidating or confusing for female candidates if they do not fulfill every requirement. To fix this issue, build a job description involving all of the necessary skills - both technical and non-technical - you're looking for in an applicant. Also place emphasis on hiring based on one's potential rather than past performance by focusing recruitment processes around their abilities and aptitude instead of just prior roles held. Thus your organization can attract remarkable diversity while also avoiding discriminating language.

Broaden your standards

In the ever-shifting post COVID-19 world, there is no longer a need to be in close proximity with your colleagues; instead, one can work as effectively with employees around the globe. If you are considering how best to operate within this new paradigm shift, we suggest refocusing on tech hubs near but also far from your area of location.

By concentrating on metropolitan hubs that are known for particular industries, you can further refine your search and concentrate solely on sectors pertinent to your needs. This strategy creates a more focused approach when searching for accomplished female tech talent, providing better chances of success in the end.

Ditch stereotypes

According to TrustRadius, 39% of women in tech felt they were held back from promotion due to gender bias. Furthermore, 26% revealed that there was a 5:1 ratio between men and women in meetings. This lack of representative voices can make it harder for candidates and hiring panels to visualize having a female CTO or CIO, thus further enforcing existing gender biases within corporate culture.

Not only does this limit the mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for young female professionals, it prevents them from achieving their full potential. Mentoring is essential, but appointing powerful sponsors both inside and out of the company can have a huge impact on developing female talent. While our ultimate aim should be to appoint more women into tech leadership positions in the long run, an effective way to reduce gender stereotypes in the interim may be to create more visibility around existing role models within tech industries. To promote an atmosphere of inclusivity, we must applaud external female tech pioneers, motivate men to be advocates for women’s advancement and foster environments with open mindsets and behaviors. With the collective effort centered on equal opportunities, access equity is achieved - allowing all women to feel welcomed.

If you'd like to get actionable insights on how to grow your leadership skills from C-level women from companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, Meta, Microsoft, Netflix, Oracle, Salesforce and many more, don't miss out on joining the Women in Tech Global Conference 2023.