Has the glass ceiling shattered?

My reaction to the news that Hewlett-Packard Co. had tapped Marilyn Crouther to lead their U.S. public sector business might reflect my own biases, but I couldn’t help noticing that Crouther is a woman leading a large business in the government market.

Actually, I should say she’s another woman running a big government contracting operation.

Among the top 20 contractors on the Washington Technology Top 100, women lead the public sector business of six of them.

Three of the top five companies – Lockheed Martin Corp. at No. 1, Northrop Grumman Corp. at No. 2, and Raytheon Co. at No. 4 – have women leaders for their IT businesses.

The high profile of women among these large companies belies the joke we have at my office about MAWGs. MAWGs, or middle-aged, white guys, seem to be the predominant population when we attend industry events and often are our most common sources for stories. I cringe when I flip through a print issue and just see page after page of white guys being quoted.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is refreshing to see strong, smart women in leadership positions.

While there is no arguing with success of women in the top 20, the numbers from 21 through 50, don’t look that great with only three more companies having a woman leading their public sector business – IBM Corp. at No. 21, Accenture at No. 33 and CGI Group at No. 41.

So the numbers aren’t reflective of the general population, but it is better than 10 years ago when only one company in the top 50 had a woman running at least the federal business. That was Anne Altman, who was the managing director of IBM’s federal unit in 2001, and today runs their global government business.

I also see a growing number of women entrepreneurs in the small and mid-sized ranks of companies, so I think we’ll continue to see more women leaders emerge at the CEO level.

As I watch this evolution, I can’t help but think of my mom, who really was the brains behind our family business. She had a natural aptitude for controlling costs and managing people at the family restaurant. Without her, it would never have been the success it was.

But at the same time, I also saw too many vendors and would-be partners turn to my father to talk about business. To dad’s credit, he always pulled mom in on those discussions. My parents had and have a great husband-wife partnership.

My parents sold the restaurant 20 years ago now and times definitely have changed since then.

But again, I ask the question from my headline: In the government market has the glass ceiling shattered? Or is it just cracking?