Women-Led Businesses Are Becoming Important IT Customers

Companies are waking up to the fact that women wield substantial influence over big ticket household purchases. But few realize that due to the explosion in women-led companies, females are now also responsible for an increasingly important portion of the estimated $1.9 trillion spent annually on information technology, says Marilyn Johnson, vice-president, market development for IBM.

“The opportunity is huge,” says Johnson, who is helping spearhead Big Blue’s global efforts to focus on women business owners. She is one of some 80-plus scheduled speakers at DLDWomen, a conference in Munch June 29-30 organized by Burda Media. The conference, which focuses on women’s influence on developments in technology, media, markets and society, is expected to attract 500 women in business and the arts.

In the U.S. some 11 million small businesses are now run by women, says Johnson.  But there is also an explosion in the creation of women-led companies in countries such as India, Russia and Brazil.

So it natural that women are now buying more IT services and equipment.  The global IT market grew by 8% year over year in 2010 to more than $1.5 trillion, according to International Data Corporation (IDC).  Including telecom services, the overall information and communications technology market grew by 6% to almost $3 trillion in 2010.

“It is just math, more women are starting businesses, and there has been a shift in the use of IT from big government and big banks to affordable solutions that can make a small business look like a global company on the web,” she says, so it makes sense that IBM is focusing more of its efforts to target these customers. Her division has increased its revenues from $250 million to over one billion in the last six years, says Johnson. The majority of its customers are women.

But Johnson’s division doesn’t just focus on women. It also targets blacks, Asians and Native Americans. “I have been fortunate to work for a company whose values and morals match mine,” says Johnson, who has worked for IBM for nearly 35 years.

She is quick to point out that IBM, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in June, hired its first woman employee in 1899 and named its first female vice-president in 1939. And, says Johnson, IBM adheres to a corporate wide equal pay policy.

The rest of the business world is catching up, she says. “As more and more women come into the pipeline and get into leadership positions and do the hiring there will be a shift,”  says Johnson, who personally mentors more than 20 employees.

Johnson’s previous IBM positions, with U.S.  and worldwide responsibility, include director of financial services sector marketing, director of eBusiness infrastructure, and director of worldwide sales operations.  She has held a variety of executive positions in key IBM business units and has had management and operational responsibility in North America, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.  In 1999 Johnson led the merger of IBM and Sequent Corporation Web-serversales.

Johnson, a mother of two grown children, is a graduate of John Marshall Universityand earned two Masters in Education degrees.  She has held positions on the Executive Board of the Council for Better Business Bureaus and the Executive Boards of the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Foundation,  the National Council of Negro Women and American Airlines Marketing Advisory Council.  She has also been recognized for her active commitment to mentoring and coaching activities

“It is not just the decade of women, it is the century of women,” says Johnson. “I had the luck to be at the right place at the right time to ride that wave, to be right at the edge of change and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

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