As a female owner of a technology company, I have come to see first hand how the perceptions men and women alike hold about the role of women in the technology sphere have yet to evolve. Within the last few years, women have been shown to fill less than 30% of all IT positions here in the US. Not only that, but this percentage has been declining.
Women as well as men hold beliefs about technological skill that is based on gender that make it less likely for women to be chosen as service providers. There is a perception that a male technology consultant is likely to know things one doesn't know in-house, while the expertise of a female is considered to be something one should know in-house. People are less likely to have a perception that a woman has something to teach them about technology. This is particularly true of men, but women also hold such beliefs.
At the same time, fewer girls are deciding to pursue tech related career paths. This makes it less likely that men working in tech fields will be educated on the abilities of women in the field by exposure during their early educational experiences. They are therefore even less likely to view women as competent peers later in their careers.
There are a number of groups that have formed over the years to address these issues. Such groups support members' career success by offering networking opportunities, sharing information, and advocating for public policies that encourage the math and science education of girls and young women around the world. (Check out www.witi.com and www.womentechworld.org for starters).
Personally, consider making a commitment to advocating for the selection of female vendors whenever possible. My company, AspiraTech, which offers SalesForce Training and Implementation services, has benefited from the strong advocacy of both men and women at client companies who have pushed for greater utilization of our services and written positive reviews of the services we've provided on public sites. Consider the various ways you can support the success of women in technology, even if you are not yourself a business owner. If you are a business owner, evaluate how many of your company's vendors are women. Do you believe women have as much to offer the world of business as men and that we can become just as expert in solving business problems using technology? If you do, then align your decision making with your beliefs and put more women to work in the tech sphere.