Maybe Bob Dylan’s lyrics always feel resonant, but when I consider the modern era, where everything is only a Google search away—the search giant ushered in its 14th birthday last month—they seem especially pertinent. I remember first booting up the Internet as a teenager, the dial tone’s spurts and squabbles heard throughout the house as AOL established its landline connection. Waiting a few minutes for a Web page to load was common, and the whole enterprise was the product of what at the time seemed a very fragile, complex process, one that could be undone at any moment if someone kicked the connection by picking up the phone.
A decade and a half later, we live at a time where the only ceremony required to get online is the push of a power button; anything more difficult than that has us calling up the IT department and halting all progress until the problem gets resolved. It’s a paradigm shift common to technological innovations—a quiet change sneaks into our day-to-day before we know it. And in the case of the Internet and personal computers and mobile technology, it has completely reshaped our world.
When we decided to explore the ways technology is continually shaping the modern company, a good place to start seemed to be with chief information officers. Who better to account for the new demands placed on businesses? The CIO is one of the newest boardroom powerhouses and the one charged with navigating network demands, database infrastructure, mobility requirements, IT communications, application maintenance, and server support. As we fleshed out our understanding of what these executives handle, it became evident that, despite the prevalence of technology in everything a company does, very few women have thrown themselves into the role. In a report from the US division of Harvey Nash Group and the Telecity Group, only nine percent of CIOs in the Unites States are female. With more women than ever taking senior leadership positions at American companies, this was a striking statistic.
Naturally, we had to seek out the perspectives of some of the top female CIOs doing work in North America today. This search culminated with one of our features, “To Be A Female CIO In A Male Dominated Field,” in which we talk to Susan B. Ericksen of New York Life Insurance Company, Leslie M. Jones of Motorola Solutions, Inc., and Twila Day of Sysco Corporation. Each of their perspectives provides keen insight into what it takes to succeed as a CIO today. And regardless of what got them to their current position, all of them agree on one thing: there is nothing about the CIO position that is innately tougher for women. Instead, it’s about education—getting the word out to young women about the benefits of such a career. After all, the payoff for companies with a woman as their CIO is clear: a fresh perspective on technology management.
The idea of new opportunity and reinvention crops up in other places in this issue: The City of St. Petersburg, Florida, has dropped its niche as a retiree hot spot in favor of becoming a business incubator. Larry McClure came to The Children’s Place to restructure its internals and put the company back on the map of moms everywhere. And John Zieser talks us through the new ways Meredith Corporation—the media company behind Better Homes and Gardens and Eating Well, among other publications—is getting savvy with digital.
In the spirit of such things, Profile is planning a revamp for itself as well. Keep your eyes open for the first issue of 2013. A new look and new ways of spotlighting the latest trends in the American marketplace await. And whether everything feels the same, or like something else entirely, we’ll see you there.