Fujitsu's UK and Ireland chairman Michael Keegan had boldly claimed the IT industry and channel is not performing as well as it should because of the lack of women working in it, as he urges IT leaders to "wake up" and get over its issue with unconscious bias.
Speaking to CRN as part of our Women in the Channel series, Keegan said: "A lot of men are very old-fashioned in their outlook. The IT industry and the channel is overwhelmingly male-dominated and that leads to an unconscious bias in the organisations, which means that it is not seen as a priority. And it should be.
"The industry is still male dominated and the industry has got a problem with unconscious bias. The industry tends to recruit men to replace men. And as a result, the industry is not performing as well as it should do.
"Why do I say that? Lots of research proves beyond any doubt that organisations which are more gender balanced and more diverse make better decisions, are more in touch with their customers, are more in touch with their stakeholders, and are better engaged with their employees. A combination of all of these factors means you're going to be a more successful business, and from a shareholder point of view, you're going to make more money."
"Too many men think this is an HR issue. It's not an HR issue! This is a business issue."
Within Fujitsu UK, about 25 per cent of its staff are women, including its CEO Lucy Dimes, who replaced Regina Moran. Keegan said that its latest graduate intake was made up of 34 per cent women, 41 per cent of its industrial placements were women, and 29 per cent of its apprentices are female.
He suggested some people in the channel view diversity as a box-ticking exercise and don't take it seriously enough.
"This whole business about women in the channel and in IT, for me, it's a business issue related to shareholder return. It's really simple: the more women you have in your business and in your senior management teams, and at every level, the more effective you're going to be and the more profit you're going to make. It's as simple as that.
"Too many men think this is an HR issue. It's not an HR issue! This is a business issue. It's about improving your decision making, improving your representation, and improving how you function as an organisation. Gender diversity is such an important part of that. I feel strongly on the subject."
"20th century outlooks"
CRN research found that of the top 50 biggest resellers in the UK, four are run by women, and 14 per cent of people on those companies' boards are women. Some have suggested the imbalance is simply a generational hangover because most IT firms grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when times were different.
Keegan accepts this to an extent, but said that male leaders who aren't doing enough to hire and promote women are short-sighted.
"It is really important if you're a leader in the IT industry that you're championing gender diversity. Otherwise you're not going to come across as a modern digital company that is changing the world, you're going to come across as an old-fashioned, male-oriented, sexist, slightly bigoted, 20th century company."
"A lot of those models are what I would call 20th century outlooks," he said.
"Actually, we're in the 21st century now and things have changed. What got you here in terms of success won't get you there in the future. If you want to be a successful future company in the IT space, then you better be the sort of place women want to work, that is open to being flexible about where people work, what hours people work and having a work-life balance. You need to be a business with women in senior positions to act as role models. You need to be conscious that the industry has a problem in this area. It needs to be part of your DNA. I don't think you can be a successful leader in the IT channel if you don't understand the industry has got a problem. You better be thinking about what you can do to fix that problem."
He said that moving with the times is essential for IT companies.
"It is really important if you're a leader in the IT industry that you're championing gender diversity," he said. "Otherwise you're not going to come across as a modern digital company that is changing the world, you're going to come across as an old-fashioned, male-oriented, sexist, slightly bigoted, 20th century company. And that's not going to be good for your P&L!" [INTERVIEW CONTINUES ON NEXT PAGE]
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