Women in Government Tech Have ‘One Bad-Ass Mission,' New Federal CIO Says

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Suzette Kent highlighted the power of women in government in her first address as federal CIO.

Federal CIO Suzette Kent praised the “bad-ass mission” of women in government tech during her first address in office, speaking at the Federal CIO Council’s Federal Women in Technology event on Thursday.

“You’re part of one of the most important missions that’s facing our nation: ensuring our technology is the best in the world,” Kent told the room of federal technologists, the majority of them women. “We have the challenge and the privilege of ensuring that our nation’s data is protected and the services that the government delivers actually meets the expectations of our citizens.”

The push to secure those systems, modernize them to the height of functionality and ensure a clean customer experience for the citizen is “one of the largest transformations in the world,” she said.

Kent bemoaned the poor state of gender diversity in the technology industry but noted this is an area where the private sector is lagging behind government.

“Last year it was announced in the private sector, the number of women who held CIO roles declined by three percentage points. That’s pretty sad,” she said. “Declined, despite the focus. But I’m happy to report, in the federal government, the number of women in cyber and IT positions is 40 percent. It far surpasses where we are in the private sector.”

Women made up 22 percent of the public and private technology sector from 2005 to 2015, according to figures from the Census Bureau American Community Survey, with statistically insignificant changes year-over-year.

Kent also noted the CIO Council’s diverse makeup, with 35 percent female membership.

“When you look at the members of the CIO Council, that’s a picture of diversity,” she said.

“Results have proven that women are more effective collaborators and what you deliver is actually better,” Kent added. “To accomplish what’s in front of us, it doesn’t take just superior technical talent…It takes the ability to work as a team, to break down siloes in order to actually produce results.”

This is an area where women generally outshine men, Kent said.

“These facts bring us back to a fundamental point: it’s the mission that we serve,” she said. “IT transformation has been the center of my entire career. But I am here for my passion about that mission.”

“And we do have one bad-ass mission,” she added.