On ChannelWeb recently ASG Software Solutions' Barbara Spicek claimed that it's time to look past gender in the IT channel.
She made a bold claim, and one many of us would like to simply accept, but is she right to walk away from the issue in this way?
As much as I'd like to deny it, gender inequality is still a real problem for our industry. I agree that women should be judged by what they do, not who they are, but there's still work to do before we get to that point.
For me, that means offering all the help I can to women who want to succeed in our industry. A few simple pieces of advice helped me succeed, and often they came from other women.
First of all, ensure you volunteer for new opportunities wherever you can. You never know what you'll learn or who you'll impress. My company is good at promoting people on merit, and there are a number of women in management roles; this may not be the case where you work, but don't be afraid to make opportunities for yourself and show what you can do.
If you don't volunteer for them, those opportunities may never come to you.
Be proactive. Make time to think about how you can change something to suit your needs, rather than simply reacting to what's going on around you. Ask yourself what you could change to improve your performance and prospects.
Could flexible work help you balance life and work, for instance? How could you help establish a working culture that's friendly to working mothers?
Find a mentor. Learning from someone you respect will help you develop your own skills and challenge your thinking. This could be someone you meet early in your career, or someone you come across much later. I've been lucky to have strong female managers who supported and encouraged me.
Take risks. Step outside your comfort zone to develop new skills. Does HR offer employees the chance to learn a new language or pick up a new skill outside work? This may not seem immediately relevant, but you never know what opportunities those skills could bring you later on.
Speak your mind. Don't be afraid to share your ideas, even when they don't match those of your colleagues. There may be challenges, but the more confident you are in voicing your opinion, the more people will want to listen to you.
You will naturally flourish when you find and pursue your niche. This comes with time, and not every responsibility will immediately feel like it's the one. Stick at it, give it your all, and you'll soon know.
There's still a long way to go to improve the equality of opportunity in the technology industry, but one of the most effective ways we can get there is to discuss the issue openly. As Hillary Clinton has reportedly put it: "You cannot be what you cannot see."
Young women need vocal female role models and to see women working across the full spectrum of employment opportunities. It's about getting to the point where there are no barriers, real or perceived – and I don't think we're quite there yet.
Jo-Anne Handley is EMEA channel marketing manager at Polycom
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