Talk of a skills gap in the UK channel is not new. In fact, in February, channel recruiter Marc Sumner said the number of vacancies among channel firms was at a "bonkers" all-time high. With that in mind, it may not be surprising that resellers, vendors and disties are keen to hire the best talent they can get their hands on, regardless of an applicant's gender.
CRN research found that just five of the top 50 biggest resellers are run by women, and 14 per cent of those companies' board members or senior leadership teams are women. But many in the channel report that outside the senior leadership teams, the balance between men and women in more junior teams is much more even, as companies look to recruit a more diverse team, and more young women look to enter the industry.
Although channel firms may be keen to recruit more women to their teams, many may defend their male-dominated workforce because most of the applicants in the first place are men. And with the skills gap ever widening, hiring the best people out of those who apply is paramount.
Attracting more women to apply for jobs in the first place is one of the suggestions the channel's leading women have made in order to level out the gender split in the industry.
According to Julie Simpson, managing director of ResourceiT and UK Women in Technology lead, tailoring job descriptions to be more female-friendly is essential.
"If you put a job out there saying it requires extensive global travel and you'll be expected to work out of hours, a woman with a family will look at that and think, not that they couldn't do it, but that [they don't want to]."
"As a marketing professional, it's all about how you communicate," she said. "I remember writing a job advert 15 years ago where my objective was to bring more women into the business. When I wrote it, I wanted it to appeal [to women]. Could this be the job of your dreams? Are you a working mum looking for flexible hours? It's about how you word it. If you put a job out there saying it requires extensive global travel and you'll be expected to work out of hours, a woman with a family will look at that and think, not that they couldn't do it, but that [they don't want to].
"When companies advertise and write job specs, it would attract more women if they considered how they wrote it. But yes, I have sympathy and I am sure it is frustrating [if most applicants are men]. But if you want a more diverse workforce, promote the women in it and talk to them about the job specs and how the roles are advertised and that will change."
All or nothing
An internal HP report into recruitment, which is widely referenced in literature on women in the workplace, showed that women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met all the criteria, whereas men were happy to apply when they thought they met just 60 per cent of them.
Referring to this theory, Dell's UK channel boss Sarah Shields said that wording job descriptions differently can be significant.
"Certainly that is something we take into consideration with our approach to talent acquisition to make sure we are using the right language and approach," she said. "It has a massive impact.
"But it is an interesting one. If you've done your advert right and still nine out of 10 candidates are men, and you've got a woman on the panel, and so on, there is an element of 'she only got that job because we've got to sort diversity'. That's a really tricky one. As an employer, if that's governing your decision, you will hire bad talent. The role of the recruiter is to make sure everyone has equal talent and the best person gets the job."
Calling the industry out
But despite the industry talking the talk when it comes to hiring women, cybersecurity entrepreneur and author Jane Frankland said many recruiters are not walking the walk.
"We hear an awful lot that there is a talent gap, in cybersecurity particularly. But I am calling the industry out on that because I know loads of women - and loads of people, full stop - who are trying to get into the industry. Some may be qualified but some have good, transferable skills. I know women with BScs and MScs who are ready to give up on cybersecurity. This is common. It really is unacceptable. We do have women who are available and knocking on the door saying 'let me in' and they are not getting the jobs. To me, that is shocking," she said.
"I think that is due to several things. Sometimes they don't have experience. It's chicken and egg - you're qualified but you need experience. There's a lot of requirements for hiring managers to look for two to three years of experience. You need to revise your hiring criteria because there are people out there with the capability and whom with some support can do it. For some jobs, you can transition in without those requirements. Sometimes HR get involved and screen. They don't understand what we do so they inappropriately screen.
"Other times it's a case of managers and job specs [being wrong]. Sometimes it is with the interview process - because people aren't trained to interview, they do a lousy job of it. Then you throw in unconscious bias as well. I was speaking at an event and a woman who was a pentester said she went for an interview and they gave her a harder test than they gave the men. They told her at the end and said they wanted to make sure she could do it. They told her that. It's just shockingly bad. That's blatant discrimination."
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