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Leadership's tug of war

Tim Mendham | Feb. 18, 2014
Why IT is proving a less attractive discipline for women

An emphasis should also be placed on strategy and transformational change, and knowledge of the technology they espouse and represent to other c-level executives and the board.

Like many CIOs, the four women described here entered the industry through what might be described as the side door, and worked their way to the top. While Parton and Biggin had extensive experience in IT, Beveridge began her career via secretarial school and tennis.

Growing up in Tasmania in the 1970s, she says, there were not many career choices for women but she was hopeless at tennis and "even worse at doing what I was told, so a secretary's life was not for me".

Training as an accountant seemed the next most sensible pathway, but Beveridge soon became interested in IT while working as an office administration manager for a brick manufacturer.

"By then, IT was becoming mainstream with the rise of the personal computer, client server and automated office applications," she says. "I got a real buzz from modernising the office processes of that brick manufacturer and helping them become the market leader."

Beveridge's career has traversed various business and IT roles and across many industries including manufacturing, contract catering, postal services, insurance and education. "A common theme has been my ability to connect business and technology and to drive business change through the effective use of technology," she says.

Weatherston arguably has one of the more novel backgrounds for an IT manager, particularly for the group CIO of one of Australia's four leading banks; she originally trained as an archaeologist at Glasgow University.

"The Scottish universities followed the old medieval university curriculum of the seven liberal arts. This approach was designed to provide a broadly-based education that produced brains that were analytical, literate and inquisitive," she explains.

"All undergraduates were required to study a range of disciplines over and above the core degree subject including philosophy, science, language.

While the practical value of moral philosophy escaped me at the time, looking back it gave me the mental training for my subsequent role as a COBOL programmer. Moral philosophy was the original discipline of logic and the basis for modern mathematics."

Weatherston decided to switch careers. She was advised computers were "the thing of the future", but there were no degrees in computing in the early 1980s, so she took a graduate trainee in computing. This started with hands-on training in COBOL programming.

"After four years of being a programmer I decided I needed a better understanding of the businesses for which I was writing the programs," she says. "I returned to university to study for an MBA. This was a challenging but worthwhile decision that opened up my career."


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