Over the last decade, there has been someting of a boom in clubs and schemes aimed at getting girls into technology. Be it technology talks, after-school coding class or summer holiday computing camps, numerous projects have sprung up with the same aim - getting girls switched on to the idea of a career in tech.
But some of the channel's leading women argue that rather than focusing on "girls-only" schemes, the industry should be focusing on encouraging diversity in the industry as a whole, and not just focus on girls.
CRN's Women in the Channel project is running throughout September and beyond and aims to address all of the burning issues surrounding the topic.
Among the tech clubs that have appeared in the UK since the early 2000s are initiatives including Code First: Girls - a community supporting young and professional women, helping companies train employees and develop talent management policies - TechFuture Girls (sponsored by HPE), which is a free after-school club for girls, and DigiGirlz, ran by Microsoft for girls in middle and high schools.
Linda Patterson, marketing director at Avnet, said that it is important to educate women and girls on the roles available in the channel, but that the industry must be careful not to positively discriminate.
She said: "There is an opportunity to attract more women into the industry. If there's a way of doing that through promoting and celebrating career opportunities which exist, [that's important]. It's about the positioning of it really. If there's a promotion about the [channel] it needs to be done very carefully. There's a difference between promoting opportunities and coming across as positive discrimination. Because IT is such a different world now. IT should [automatically] be attractive to females as well."
As well gender-specific clubs and schemes, there are a number of inclusive initiatives available for children interested in technology, including CoderDojo; Tech Camp UK; ComputerXplorers and Code Club.
Alex Tempest, director of partners at TalkTalk, agreed that training in schools is "absolutely" important, but argued that it should not be limited just to girls.
"Would I limit [IT clubs] to girls? Categorically not," she explained. "I'd love to see children looking at technology in a way where they really want to engage together. You need to tell people in schools and share with them what they have the opportunity to do.
"I think sometimes if you are on the other side of the fence, and in this case you are a boy, and you look at a coding club for girls you think ‘why can't I take part in it?'. There is probably no logical reason to why, except that in life sometimes it just isn't fair."
"You have to take away the challenge of gender at the child stage. Whatever it is you want to do, all of the different things find a way eventually into the technology environment. You don't have to be the person who can actually code. You can deliver your skills elsewhere within the technology industry."
However, Lynn Collier, HDS' COO UK and Ireland, said she sees no issues with "girls-only" clubs, because there are "a lot of choices" for non-gender specific schemes as well.
She said: "I think sometimes if you are on the other side of the fence, and in this case you are a boy, and you look at a coding club for girls you think ‘why can't I take part in it?'. There is probably no logical reason to why, except that in life sometimes it just isn't fair. The fact that we are doing something for girls to show them the way forward, I don't think that is a bad thing. There are other clubs around for mixed sex, and they have a choice.
"I do think the programmes work. I think they are amazing, as long as we have a lot of choices. Not everybody learns in the same way or participates in the same way. It is about respecting people's differences ultimately, but sometimes you need a helping hand to get there."
Brocade's head of Western Europe, Joy Gardham, agreed, adding that she thinks rather than just focusing on technical IT skills the schemes should also work on "softer" skills like confidence.
"I think [we need to build girls'] confidence," she said. "It is about understanding that they have a right and an entitlement like anyone else. Those types of softer skills are absolutely critical. We've seen evidence of taking girls through these technical schemes. They know how to do things with technology but they still lack confidence in the workplace.
"The more you develop your knowledge and understanding of something, the less fear you have of it. If we can remove that fear we would take down a very big barrier and encourage a lot more women to pursue a career in IT and particularly in the channel. We have to be careful not to overplay it or for it to become an unfair bias. But until we get balance, we should continue to take positive action."
The initiatives don't stop when girls leave school. There are a number of workplace schemes aimed specifically at supporting women in the IT industry.
Microsoft has Codess, a worldwide community for female coders, while TechData has a Ladies of Tech Data employee resource group, as well as various non-gender specific resource groups supporting diversity.
Of CDW's five US diversity groups, two of them are aimed at women - Women in Sales and Women's Leadership. Tech UK has a Women in Tech council within the UK to "champion gender diversity in tech", whereas CompTIA have an Advancing Women in Technology Community which has programmes including Dream IT: Inspiring Women and Girls to Explore Technology.
Ingram Micro has a worldwide diversity and inclusion forum which aims to create equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Sharon Maslyn, sales director at 8x8, said she thinks that type of inclusive programme is the way forward for training in the workforce.
"It needs to be about an inclusive training programme. It all comes down to attracting the right people for the jobs. I have massive targets to hit so I always have to think about the best person for the job. I do see male dominance in CVs still, but I always have to look for the best skills for the job. That is always my first decision, it is not about male or female," she said.
Miriam Murphey (pictured), Avnet's senior vice president EMEA, added that diversity schemes are a good opportunity, but instead of focusing on diversity problems in the industry, they should focus on celebrating the diversity that does exist.
She explained: "There is definitely an opportunity for people sharing their experiences. Rather than talking about diversity in the channel being a problem, highlighting situations where diversity isn't an issue is a healthy approach. Sharing stories and experiences to people who maybe don't see things with the same clarity.
"We've all got to remember that a big element is about how you were brought up. If you were brought up to believe you can do whatever you want to do, it changes how you look at the situation. We need a platform to share opportunities and experiences. But I would hate to ever think any of my successes have been undermined because of it being required for diversity. I think I've [done well] on my merits rather than because anyone needed to tick boxes."
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