Nishtha Langer, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Women in IT More Likely to Be Promoted Than Men

On Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Week: Women in IT jobs face many challenges.

Nishtha Langer, assistant professor of business analytics, says despite this, they may be more likely to get promoted than their male counterparts.

Nishtha Langer is an assistant professor of business analytics at the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She teaches graduate and undergraduate students on aligning firms’ information technology (IT) strategy and business strategies for sustained competitive advantage, exploring new markets, and enabling grounded management and economic principles through the use of IT and business analytics.

IT’s organizational and societal impact is multidisciplinary and wide-ranging. Professor Langer is deeply influenced by the interdisciplinary research ethic of Herb Simon in “following the problem” in analyzing the value of key IT investments and resources. Her research benefits from her rigorous academic training at Carnegie Mellon University, combined with over five years of IT experience in India and the U.S. Using theory and techniques from different disciplines such as economics, operations management, marketing, analytics, and organizational behavior, she is interested in empirically analyzing how firms can use their IT capital and IT human capital most effectively. More recently, her research examines the biases in IT labor markets and the societal and business value of social media platforms such as Twitter.

Professor Langer’s research has been published in top-tier journals, including Management Science, Information Systems Research (ISR), MIS Quarterly, and Journal of Management Information Systems, among others, and widely presented and acclaimed by both academic and industry audiences. Her recent publication examining gender and promotions in the IT industry has been featured on INFORMS’ Resoundingly Human podcast and elsewhere.

Before joining Rensselaer, Professor Langer was an assistant professor of information systems at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. She was also a visiting faculty member at the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining Gies, she worked as a systems analyst at Arbella Insurance in Boston, and as a systems engineer at Tata Infotech Ltd. in India (now part of Tata Consultancy Services). She earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Delhi College of Engineering and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Management (with specialization in information systems) from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

Women in IT More Likely to Be Promoted Than Men

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Women are underrepresented in leadership positions throughout the information technology industry. And while more and more women are earning degrees in STEM fields, they don’t necessarily pursue careers in IT because they don’t see opportunities for growth.    

To try to understand more, I examined several years of archival data from an IT company to explore the interplay of gender, performance, and training on promotions in the IT industry. What I found was surprising.

I discovered that on average, women are actually more likely to be promoted. It could be because they may be considered more helpful and trustworthy compared to men or perceived to have better management skills. Another factor could be the gender wage gap. We know that for the same job, women are paid less than men. Therefore, it could be that they are promoted because they are the lower-cost option.

However, my research shows that when it comes to promotions based solely on performance improvements, men continue to show a higher likelihood of promotion for the same improvement in performance. This could be because senior managers may misattribute women’s performance improvements to luck or other factors rather than their capabilities.

Still, I found there are ways for women to improve their chances at promotion. My research shows that training is an effective tool for women to signal to their employers that they are ready and able to take on more senior roles. Interestingly, the impact of the same amount of training on men’s promotion likelihood is much lower than that for women.

Women make up 57% of the US labor market but only 23% of IT jobs. These numbers need to change, but for that, companies have to value their women employees and their capabilities and nurture their growth.

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