A number of "Women in IT" or "Women in Technology" projects exist across the industry, aiming to celebrate and highlight the successes of high-profile women in what is a heavily male-dominated industry.
CRN research suggests that the IT channel lags behind both FTSE 250 companies and SMEs when it comes to the representation of women in senior leadership teams. Four of the top 50 reseller bosses are women. This, for some, is reason enough to shout about the successes many women have enjoyed, and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
But while those behind the schemes may have good intentions, the very concept of singling out women for excelling in their careers jars with some, who find the concept patronising or undermining.
Many from that school of thought believe that pointing out the successful work of women in the channel reinforces the fact that there are so few women at the top of the industry, and highlights that they are an exception to the rule, going even further to reinforce the idea that the channel is male-dominated than in the first place. Others feel that if the channel were truly equal, it would not be necessary to highlight women's good work, and not men's. Further, by talking up the successful work of only women - and not men - many fear it opens the door to conversations about enforcing quotas for women on senior teams, which can be controversial.
So before we delve into our own Women in the Channel project, CRN wanted to get to the crux of the issue - Women in the Channel: should it be an issue?
Tracy Westall, SCC's director of corporate services, told CRN that it is "bloody depressing that we even need to talk about this".
"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, is depressing," she said. "The fact we're having a gender conversation is not a particularly great place to be."
But she conceded that based on the facts, it is necessary to highlight the lack of women in the industry.
"Ultimately, if women make up 50 per cent of the population, and the sector is only tapping into the numbers you quoted - 14 per cent in senior positions - that suggests that maybe the sector is missing out on skills and talent. For that reason alone, you'd think it's a logical thing to tackle. We're not getting the talent that's out there and that has to be at the detriment of the channel."
A number of women CRN spoke to as part of this initiative said they've never felt like their gender has caused them any problems throughout their careers, with many citing supportive bosses - both male and female - who have encouraged them to go for promotions and step up to new projects. With this is mind, any schemes championing women in the industry are seemingly redundant.
Julie Simpson (pictured, right), CEO of ResourceiT and UK Women in Technology lead for Microsoft partner group the IAMCP, accepted that many women don't feel the need to speak up because they have had good experiences personally, but she added that successful channel women have a duty to encourage others.
"This is a critical point: women themselves don't want to step forward and say 'this is a problem'," she said. "I think some of the reasons for that is they don't want the men they work with to say 'oh look at you! Women in IT! You need that, do you?' It makes us withdraw, even if we think it. We're just not putting ourselves out there. A lot of the reason women don't get involved, I believe, is because they want to be recognised for their skill and capability, and not because they are a woman.
"The fact is that the problem exists and more of us [need to] step forwards and say 'I think this is a problem'. Unless more of us stand up... it will perpetuate. Get over it that you don't want to be recognised because you're a woman. You are a woman and you are a minority [in the tech industry]. That's a fact."
The general consensus among the women CRN spoke to for the Women in the Channel project was that although in an idea world, promoting gender equality in the channel would be a "non-issue", at the moment, it is a conversation which needs to be had.
Margaret Totten (pictured, left), managing director of Microsoft partner IA Cubed, which has an all-female leadership team - by coincidence, not design - said: "We need to get to a point where we're not talking about women in technology as a separate thing. It shouldn't matter and if you put the barrier there, it will always be there. You'll get resentment from both sides - 'she got that job because she is a woman', or because it is politically correct to give it to a woman. It shouldn't be a matter of promoting women who shouldn't be promoted. It should be a matter of promoting the best people for the job. It shouldn't come into consideration.
"But because technology and engineering have been seen as male-dominated environments, what can happen is females go in and do not want to do the same thing as men. It's about deciding what place you take in an organisation. We are a female-led organisation. We went from being very male-led to very female-led but that was down to the fact there were a lot of strong female [candidates]. It wasn't that females were promoted above men. I'd like to get to a place where we're not talking about women in technology. But I think it's important right now. It should be based on skills, not sex."
Sarah Gray, Jabra's senior director of channel, agreed and said: "For me, it shouldn't be an issue, but it still is. It's more about having that level playing field. There are plenty of young women going into the workforce and we want to give them as many choices as possible. We should be talking about it until it is a natural option. We should still consider it until it becomes the norm."
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