I have been working in the channel for the past 16 years. Yes, 16 years. The thought scares me.
CRN has had two female editors in the past 14 years - coincidentally both of us called Sara - so you could say we were leading the way when it came to promoting women to top positions in the channel.
And very importantly, on a global level, we could be (please God) about to enter a period where three of the world's most powerful countries are ruled by women - we have Teresa and Angela, and are just waiting for Hillary. The alternative is not something I will contemplate right now.
Should this happen, it will be unprecedented, and I am excited about what it could mean for the future. Of course if a certain other person gains power, women's rights and role in society in the US (and further afield) could well be dealt a massive blow. I hope it doesn't happen.
However, back to the subject matter. There is no escaping the fact that the IT industry, and particularly the channel, is still very much male-dominated territory - but should anyone be chastised for that? It is just how it is. At the moment.
Of course, there are many high-profile women doing a great job in the channel and our project aim is to highlight those women as examples to the next generation of IT and business professionals, but hopefully without the patronising tone many similar projects have had in the past.
Because let's face it. many 'women in IT' schemes are downright patronising. And embarrassing. Almost screaming "look, it's a woman, working in the channel in a high-profile job, WOW". This puts many women off the subject before they even start.
I believe quotas are a dangerous road to go down - people should be promoted on ability only, not whether they use male or female toilets. You should not hire people to take board positions based on their sex; it causes resentment and makes life difficult for both sides. If you are the best candidate, you get the job. Simple.
Pace of change
So are things actually changing? We have had to put up with "booth babes" at most of the major exhibitions around the globe for years, and a few still sneak into events, or are sneaked in, I should say. I'm also not convinced pay has reached parity in every area yet, but it is getting there. And I will bring up this point (my P45 will be in the post) but we have ring girls at the CRN Fight Night - something that makes me cringe every year without fail. Objectifying anyone is wrong in my book, but it is still happening. Because the demand is still there from some quarters.
Playing devil's advocate, it is a fact of life that if a couple wants to have a family, it is the woman who has to play the major part in that (can't argue with nature), and inevitably they take time off work to do that. Flexible working has made life a lot easier for many women, but it has taken a long time to get to this stage, so there is a natural dominance of men at the top. But it is changing, and rightfully so. Whether it is changing fast enough is not something I can answer.
Do women help themselves?
I was at an event a couple of years ago where a 'women in IT' discussion (which banned any men from entering the room - WRONG) likened women in IT to battered wives in a bad marriage. My jaw hit the floor. We were recently sent a press release about a company hiring a "female graduate" who stood out because she was a woman in a male-dominated industry, and could be "found in the kitchen" when she wasn't at work. They meant well, but the tone of the release was astounding. "Look folks, we've hired a woman!"
These types of examples do not help anyone. It serves to divide and cause resentment and is a step backwards rather than forwards. The intentions may be good, but people need to think of the implications of their words and actions a little more sometimes. We are all just people. Human beings. Some male, some female.
Also why is it only women singled out? What about disabled people? Black people? Gay/bisexual or transgender people? Diversity is not just about women, but it is a massive can of worms to open. And CRN is prepared to do just that.
I hope you enjoy our latest project. It is an ambitious one and will definitely be different to anything else out there at the moment. We aim to tackle subjects that have not been tackled before and put a different spin on the issue. It is a project that I think is worthwhile and I will be following developments with great interest.
We really would welcome feedback during this project; it is a subject everyone must have an opinion on. Every opinion counts. Regardless of your gender.
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