Why Women are Key to the ITAM industry

All the talk in the ITAM industry in relation to the gender mix it is that SAM/ITAM is very male biased, much like the rest of the IT industry. The thing with SAM/ITAM is that it is not an atypical IT function even though the name implies it – IT Asset management – but if you breakdown the workload and the touchpoints, you quickly realise that you’re not writing code or scripts, you’re not building servers, you’re not fixing P1s or building technical roadmaps.

What you are doing is building services, ITAM strategy, process, procedures and organization, and that’s just the starting point. Women are key to this as the skills in ITAM are skills women are often more naturally gifted in. (Generalization I know but let’s accept the fact.)

(Let me add a caveat, you may end up building code or writing scripts or be involved in P1s, but it’s not the first requirement that jumps out on a job application or on a person’s CV. Though there are plenty of technical people in ITAM who can do this, it is not an ITAM requirement.) 

The real skill of ITAM

ITAM is a flexible collaborative function that can sit under procurement, finance, IT, service management, legal, security, strategy and planning. In fact it could sit under any area of the business or none as it touches all parts of the company. Its those touchpoints that lead me into what the real skill of ITAM is – the soft skills (which are the hardest skills to master) of persuasion and relationship building to the point of manipulation/coercion. Now I can almost hear the intake of breath at the mention of manipulation or coercion but let’s be honest in ITAM that’s a day to day requirement in order to get the data you require to perform your role. Sometimes to the level of coercion by using escalation to force people to comply.

I consider the soft skills as a core skill in ITAM as these will drive the ITAM practice and add value to any organization. This is supported by a second skill that people may not or may have – analytics. This part of SAM entails analysing the data presented and making informed decisions on the next course of action.

I would like to highlight again that I am talking in general terms throughout this post and of course, some men are great at the soft skills and some women at the tech skills. So, when I look at the men and women in this industry, then I would say in the two key skill areas in ITAM woman are much more highly skilled and developed than men, now like I said this isn’t everyone as I for one can talk the hind leg off a donkey but let’s look at this objectively.

I am no physiologist but men tend to get people to do what they ask by using physical presence, alpha male etc. Women who don’t have the physical strength or presence, they have typically used relationships, and talking to get what they want, I only have to look at my 10 year old daughter and she has been wrapping me and any man who comes near her round her finger for years (sometimes the wife as well). Women just seem to have a much more natural affinity to creating relationships with people, talking to people and using persuasion to get them to do what they need.

Women, because of this affinity, use the persuasion relationship rather than having to resort to manipulation/coercion and this builds stronger ties with colleagues in the business though they are not afraid to use the stick rather than the carrot if required.

If you’re hiring why wouldn’t you naturally lean toward people who are naturally gifted in a skill that is hard to teach and hard to learn but is critical to the success of your organization? 

Analytical skills

That’s the main skill catered for, so let’s look at the analytics skills which are just as important but can be easier to mitigate than the soft skills. This is a bit more of a technical skill as it’s the manipulation of data and this can be taught to anyone but the mind-set of a person with great analytical skills is what brings the value here.

With ITAM and SAM in particular when you’re looking at data most of the time, you’re in databases or Excel spreadsheets with 1000’s of rows or even 1,000,000’s of rows (though not Excel) and much of it can be similar.

If I was honest and if most men were honest, when it comes to looking through reams of information, men are much more likely to reach a conclusion quicker than women. Which may sound great as we want to get decisions, but these decisions are typical made by making assumptions rather than empirical evidence. Women on the other hand tend to be more detail orientated and more diligent before coming to a conclusion. This measured approach allows for auditable demonstrable evidence to back up the conclusion arrived at, so that even if the conclusion is wrong it is less likely and has more evidence to support the decision.

Let’s take an example I have seen many times, if we look at women applying for a job. It’s been shown in many studies that women tend not to apply to a job unless they can do 80-90% of the role, whereas men will apply even if they have less than 50% of the skills or knowledge. There are many reasons behind this, and I don’t want to open that box but it’s the same with data, and in this industry that detail and due diligence is critical to ITAM success as it is more likely that mistakes will be made by the men taking a shortcut than by the women doing the in-depth work. Is this men just being lazy? (Hmm another box we don’t want to open.)

Why are there not more women in ITAM?

Is this a cultural thing? Or is it a gender thing? I think it’s a bit of both. With gender I think men and women have different natural skill sets that if utilized and exploited correctly allow the employee and the organization to get the best outcome possible. If we were to base it purely on those natural abilities it says that there should be more women in this industry than men.

In relation to cultural, I think this has had a lot more impact, such as a boy baby wears blue and a girl baby wears pink, girls can’t run or punch, men can’t cry, women should be nurses or teachers and not mechanics or into computers etc. The list goes on but when I look to the Nordics I see women dominating in a lot of roles, for example look at the Unicef Climate representative who is a 15 year old girl or the well-known Greta Thunburg at 16, what is so different in the Nordics that these young women feel empowered? Australia is much more balanced with a more equal representation. Is Europe and the America lagging behind? This shift of gender attendance can be seen when you look around at geographic industry events.

Who runs the [ITAM] World?

If I look at my current team and prior team, both were heavily dominated by very talented women, and we didn’t hire them because they were women but because they were the best. I actively look for women who want a challenging career where they can really make a difference. An apprentice I employed has just completed her first year in SAM, and at 21, the potential I see in her means she should be a high flyer in the industry in the next five years. For ITAM, the future is women.

I highly encourage females in the industry to use Modern Muse to promote a career in ITAM for young women leaving education, as well as to develop their own leadership skills. All organizations should do the same, who wouldn’t want a young, qualified colleague who delivers huge value?

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Daniel Begg

Daniel Begg

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