CRN research found that of the top 50 biggest resellers in the UK, four 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.
As part of our Women in the Channel project, CRN caught up with Insight's Emma de Sousa to discuss what her feelings on the subject are, and what her experience has been like being one of just a few female leaders in the industry.
Throughout the Women in the Channel project, we've spoken to people with varying views on the concept in general. Some think highlighting the lack of senior women in the industry is essential in order to bring about change, while others believe that doing so is patronising, and actually unhelpful. Where do you stand on the issue?
I have read the work you have done and it's such an interesting topic. My view is that balance is critical. I love the fact that today I am in my Sheffield office, and I don't mind sharing with you that my corporate sales management team here in Sheffield is an entire female management team. That's a good thing. In my own team of direct reports I have got a 50:50 split male to female.
I actually think that having that balance enriches us as a team and as a business. I guess fundamentally, I do believe in meritocracy. With that said, I read some people's views and they are keen to promote women, but I think it is important to have a balance. But fundamentally, we should only recruit and promote based on merit, skills and experience, regardless of gender. I probably sit somewhere in between what people have [said]. I think balance is great and there are lots of benefits of having a balanced workforce. It's about having the best people for the best roles in the business.
What do you think the most important benefits of having a balanced team in terms of gender within the business?
I'm proud to represent an equal-opportunities employer which values and respects its employees' differences and recognises how critical it is to the success of the organisation. When you have diversity, you have different perspectives and different ways of thinking. So long as you have a culture of inclusiveness, everyone feels empowered to voice their opinions, you genuinely get a creative edge that enables you to better serve you clients and drive your marketplace. We are a client-focused organisation and we benefit in that way.
"I suppose, given that there are fewer women in the industry, it stands to reason there will be fewer women holding senior posts. But I do believe this is changing and that it will continue to change."
Another key benefit in embracing and respective diversity is that people feel valued. And when people in your organisation feel valued, morale is high, which leads to an increase is productivity. The other thing I would say is that when you have a reputation as an equal-opportunities employer, you have a wider talent pool to select from.
Our research shows that of the top 50 biggest resellers in the UK, four of them are led by women - one of which is you. What do you think about that?
I suppose, given that there are fewer women in the industry, it stands to reason there will be fewer women holding senior posts. But I do believe this is changing and that it will continue to change. It's back to the same point - how do we attract more women into the industry in the first place? How do we make it a place where women want to come and be a part of it?
From there, we need to identify talent and ambition within our organisations and then - through coaching and development - to nurture that talent so people can be the best they can be, regardless of gender.
Although there are lots of schemes and projects out there designed to encourage women into the industry now, this hasn't always been the case.
How has the industry changed in this sense during the time you have been a part of it?
I do believe times are changing. I do think it's a generational issue. IT is a relatively new industry - when I was at university, I didn't have a computer or a mobile phone, and today children are far more tech savvy, with things like interactive whiteboards in the classroom and so on. I've got a four-year-old daughter and she will quite happily do a search on an iPhone. The world has changed and IT is such an integral part of everyone's lives.
I think that makes it more attractive to a wider audience. It is accessible to everyone and it a part of our everyday lives. I've seen that in the time I have been in the industry. I have to say, I find the channel a particularly invigorating place to be. It's true there is not always a healthy male-to-female balance in every scenario, and, like others, I have been to events and been one of the few females there. But I very much enjoy being part an intelligent and dynamic community, and that's what the channel provides.
"I think the biggest challenge today is less of that ‘boys' club' and, for me, it's more about how to we communicate the benefits of this dynamic industry and get it across to them that opportunities exist for talented people regardless of gender."
Some people claim the channel has a reputation of being a ‘boys' club, and claim this puts women off joining the industry. Do you think this an outdated view?
I do. Maybe in days gone by, that was the way it was, but today I genuinely believe it is a great industry which is accessible to everyone and I feel there are equal opportunities for all. I think the biggest challenge today is less of that ‘boys' club' and, for me, it's more about how to we communicate the benefits of this dynamic industry and get it across to them that opportunities exist for talented people regardless of gender. We have opportunities across all disciplines - you don't have to be a tech genius to succeed and make an impact in this industry.
The issue of helping new mums return to work has come up throughout this project. What do you think about this area?
I think that women make choice when they have a baby. I think we have a responsibility as an employer to create the right environment for women to come back into work. Increasingly - and this isn't about women, or women having babies - in today's world, flexible working options are key to people, just as comprehensive learning and development tools are, and competitive benefits packages. It's not just to women - it's to everyone - as people's expectations are changing.
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