Eight per cent of the top 50 biggest UK resellers are run by women, according to new CRN Women in the Channel research, prompting leading female channel figures to express their disappointment and call for change.
Of the top 50 biggest UK resellers, as ranked in CRN's Top VARs 2015, five are run by women: Helen Slinger is BT Business Direct's CEO; Emma de Sousa is Insight UK's managing director; Sam Mudd is Phoenix Software's managing director; and Yolanta Gill is European Electronique's CEO. On a global basis, SHI International is run by Thai Lee.
Further, CRN studied the gender breakdown of the top 50 biggest VARs' UK senior management teams or boards of directors, according to their websites (full list of resellers studied below). Only 30 of the 50 biggest resellers publicly publish this information online, but of those, CRN found that 31 of the combined 227 (14 per cent) senior leaders of those 30 companies were women.
Of those 31 women, 13 held roles in sales, operations, business development or tech, while the rest worked in either HR, marketing, finance, or were company secretaries or non-exec directors.
Of the 30 resellers which publicly disclose who is on their board, nine companies (30 per cent) had all-male senior teams. Some 14 of the 30 (46 per cent) had just one women on their senior leadership team. This means, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of the top 50 UK resellers which disclose their senior teams have either none, or one, woman on their leadership teams.
Owing to the fact UK channel-specific research into this area has not been done before, it is difficult to compare these figures from previous years.
This means, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of the top 50 UK resellers which disclose their senior teams have either none, or one, woman on their leadership teams.
But by comparison nationally, the 2015 Davies Review into improving gender balance on British boards stated that on the whole in the UK, women make up 26.1 per cent of FTSE 100 boards - double the figure from 2011. It added that in 2011, there were 152 all-male boards, and today there are no all-male boards in the FTSE 100 and only 15 in the FTSE 250. These figures suggest the UK channel is well behind the trend set by the UK's biggest companies.
It is a similar story when the channel figures are compared with stats relating to small businesses too. Government statistics from last year state that in 2014, 20 per cent SMEs in the UK were majority led by women.
Not surprised, but disappointed
As part of the Women in the Channel project, CRN has spoken to a host of female leaders from the industry, most of whom said they were not surprised by the figures. Many felt it is not uncommon for them to be the only woman in a senior meeting, and pointed to industry events at which men make up the vast majority of presenters and delegates.
Tracy Westall, SCC's director of corporate services, said that the figures make grim reading.
"It's not something to be particularly proud of. If I think about my own organisation, on our leadership team, we are unrepresentative [of the channel] in that we've got two women on our board out of six. So we are well above that [figure]. I don't think previously the sector has regarded itself as being the most welcoming," she said.
"It's bloody depressing we're even having to talk about. It is perfectly feasible that by November, the leaders of the free world will be women. Yet the fact it is 2016 and you and I are on a call about women in leadership positions in one of the sectors which makes a huge contribution to GDP in the UK, and the fact it's so underrepresented - it's depressing. The fact we're having a gender conversation is not a particularly great place to be."
Sarah Shields (pictured) Dell's UK channel boss, told CRN that although the channel is becoming more female friendly, the fact that so few have yet made it to senior positions might be due to past attitudes.
"There is a lack of female leadership throughout the IT industry," she said. "I think if you look back at the channel 10 years ago, it was a boys' club. So I think that would have put a fairly significant amount of women off. There was a big focus on relationships, entertainment and nights out. I don't think the challenge is to get women into the channel, it is to get women into IT and then when you get into IT, you realise the best part of IT is in the channel."
Julie Simpson, CEO of ResourceiT and Women in Technology lead for the Microsoft partner group the IAMCP UK, said the industry ought to wake up.
"It's disappointing and I'd hope over the last few years we would have made more progress and more organisations would have woken up to the need for more diversity among their senior management teams," she said. "More women in senior management teams will attract more women into the business."
CRN's Women in the Channel project will run throughout September and beyond, and will focus on key issues relating to women in the channel, including what the benefits of a diverse workforce are and what can be done to achieve it. Further, we will delve into more controversial topics, such as whether the concept of focusing on women in the channel is even relevant, and does it patronise successful women? The project will culminate in the publication of a list of the most influential women in the UK channel.
Stay tuned to the Women in the Channel hub throughout the month.
Top 50 UK resellers studied:
Connected World Services
Buy IT Direct
NTT Com Security
NG Bailey IT Services
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