Exodus of female IT workers by 2012
Nearly half of the female IT workforce will deplete over the next five years, as growing numbers independently exploit business opportunities, cutting-edge research and creative ideas.
Issuing the forecast, Gartner said four out of ten women will leave the global workforce in a solo pursuit of IT-business careers by 2012.
The exodus will increase the risk of "project, business and professional failure" for organisations which fail to intake enough women - and their unique skills - into their ranks.
"Psychologists tell us that women, on average, are better than men at building trust and collaboration that underlie relationships," said Mark Raskino, research vice president at Gartner.
Women, he said, tend to have the upper hands in social skills; excel at listening, communicating and in understanding other people's views.
"CIOs currently don't seem to be aware that social networking systems, vendor and portfolio management, collaborative knowledge work and several other areas in IT would benefit from typically female capability traits."
If business fails to snap up such resources, industry will witness an 'aggressive move' by women "into business, functional and research & development processes or entrepreneurial ventures."
The pursuit will be inspired by the inability of "most organisations" to make any progress in populating women among their IT workforce.
Rather than persist in fighting for gender diversity "most women will give up long before they [can] catch up," with the continual influx of men, Gartner said.
Said vice president Raskino: "A battle of the sexes for the important emerging skills and roles in IT would be healthy, but it's typically such a male dominated function that there's not even an active debate."
Organisations are part of the problem, Gartner implied, because their 'diversity programmes' have been preoccupied with the wrong objective.
Recruitment schemes typically fast-track women into senior IT positions, contradicting the many "years" it takes to change internal attitudes and corporate cultures.
Technological change and the need to remain competitive both dictate organisations need to redevelop their capabilities – a move that requires the gender mix to change.
Worldwide skills shortages should remind CIOs that diversity is not an 'HR initiative' but an inherent factor in every exchange, conversation or meeting.
This demands traits and capabilities that span established stereotypes, psychology and behaviours, Gartner said.
"The solution is to change the game," the analyst concluded.
"Given the ambitious business drivers ahead of them, businesses and IT organisations specifically can't afford to miss their objectives because they fail to attract half the talent base. Diversity is not common sense or an issue of policy; it's business survival."