Diversity is not exactly on companies' agendas during tough economic times; most corporate directives are about survival rather than creating opportunities. Opportunities in the tech and IT industries seem to be particularly closed-off for women, as tech jobs are typically held by men. The tides are changing, however, and there's research to prove that women add to innovation in tech, with female-filed industry patents slowly growing. Tech companies are catching on, and some are actively looking to hire women for their IT positions. The following are some of the top tech companies hiring women.

In Pictures: A Bigger Salary Or Better Benefits?

  • IBM (NYSE: IBM)
    Ever since it appointed Ruth Leach as its first woman VP in 1943, IBM has been at the forefront when it comes to creating a female-friendly corporate climate. The company has more women networks than any other; networks that foster career development, better communication between men and women, and global discussions. Approximately one third of IBM's workforce us made up of women.

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)
    In addition to its focus on diversity in tech hiring, Google also partners with dozens of organizations focused on getting young women opportunities in tech fields. The company recognizes that diversity, including female employees, adds to its success, and has created several corporate positions managing its diversity policies. (For more, check out Female CEOs: What It Takes To Climb The Corporate Ladder.)

  • Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)
    Microsoft has repeatedly made the list in Working Mother Magazine's top companies to work due to its family-friendly culture. Along with a host of diversity partners, Microsoft actively promotes opportunities for teen girls in tech, and sponsors hiring women in tech through the Seed program, a small-business start-up funding program encouraging women in tech fields.

  • Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO)
    To promote women in tech, Cisco has 34 Women's Action Networks (WAN) within its global operations. Cisco also tracks its WAN's diversity success with performance reviews and other criteria, like diversity surveys. In 2009, women made up 23.35% of Cisco's total employees, while 15.47% of its VP positions and higher were also women. (For more about successful women in tech industries, check out 7 Women Inventors And Their Indispensable Designs.)

  • Intel (Nasdaq: INTC)
    Like Cisco and other tech giants listed here, Intel touts a women's focus group among its employees: Women at Intel Network (WIN). The company also supports girls' continued tech education in grades K-12.

  • Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM)
    Along with promoting diversity with some of its Employee Resource Groups, Qualcomm has a women's focus group called Qualcomm Women in Science and Engineering (QWISE). The group encourages more women to be hired in IT positions, as well as career growth for female employees.

  • AT&T (NYSE: T)
    AT&T boasts a $244 million investment in employee training, including an accelerated development program for prospective manager, with a nearly 50% female participation. Their $25 million tuition reimbursement program helps more than 4,800 female employees get continuing education. AT&T was recognized in 2009 as one of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity.

Women in Tech
So how do you identify tech companies with good IT opportunities for women? They make women a priority, often with specific programs or groups fostering growth among their female employees. These companies look out for exceptional female employees, allowing them to grow with mentorship, and without the bias against women that's often ingrained in large corporate cultures, particularly in the IT industry.

These tech companies create family-friendly environments, to allow women in tech to enjoy a career while still allowing them to meet their family commitments. Many of these companies support better educational opportunities and the fostering of tech talent among young girls and teens, to encourage women in tech for decades to come. Progressive companies like the ones listed here understand that if they give women a chance at the top, it'll feed their bottom line - so everyone wins.

If you're still feeling uninformed, check out last week's business highlights in Water Cooler Finance: Auto Hope, Bubbling Oil and Obamanomics.

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