XMA commercial director Andy Wright says the cause of diversity in the channel could be advanced by the impact of the global pandemic.
Joining CRN's Women in Channel campaign as a judge for the first time, Wright anticipates that businesses are having their eyes opened to new ways of working and socialising at work that will likely outlast lockdown.
"Skill sets have had to change, and COVID-19 could really move the dial," he said.
"In the past, when you look at how business was done in places like pubs and at golf, well obviously that has had to change. And what we may find is that some people who were perhaps not as comfortable with doing in business in that way can now come to the fore in other ways.
"There's going to be more opportunity to do things remotely through Teams and Zoom in building networks. So that changing dynamic could be a real opportunity to instigate change across many industries.
"COVID-19 could break down some of the old networks that people had gotten used to."
Despite lockdown and COVID-19 raising some challenging questions for the women in channel debate, Wright said that he also sees the channel at a natural point where there could be a changing of the guard in the top quartile of leadership.
"The channel is different to other sectors. For some, it's a first-generation business of say 40 years. So we're a very young industry in comparison to finance, which is 250 years old.
"We're going through that first shedding of people who founded the industry, so the opportunity to change is starting to come through in the upper quartile.
"I think our channel will change a lot in five years."
However he did sound two notes of caution, firstly around avoiding positive discrimination, and secondly on taking it for granted that the education system will do enough to generate a more diverse pipeline for the channel.
"We live in hugely diverse society, and what we're looking for at XMA is that almost fresh naivety that tests us on the status quo," he said.
"But we can't maximise the rate of change if not enough is being done in schools and tertiary education. We need industry input. We need to be asking what are the mix of people that are going to come out into the channel?"
Wright is the 22nd industry judge to be announced for CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020, which will be held on 15 October. View the other industry judges here.
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