Name: Claire Hopkins
Role: Founding director of Brighton-based Cisco and Palo Alto Networks partner Ideal Group
Context: Hopkins co-founded Ideal in 2009 and is also a trustee of the Girls Network
Do you think the IT industry's gender diversity deficit - and diversity deficit more widely - warrants highlighting?
Yes- sexism and the abuse of male power is not unique to IT- but it is important for our rapidly growing industry, desperately short of talent, to find ways to attract and retain more women and diverse talent generally. In IT, the majority group is white, middle aged men- a tribe which Grayson Perry calls ‘Default Man'. It is critical the sector captures the imagination of a broader pool of talent and presents itself as a place where they can thrive.
Who is your role model?
My mother, grandmother and great grandmother who were all female entrepreneurs before me and highly financially astute.
What are the key business benefits of having a diverse workforce?
All the research shows that diversity increases profitability and creativity, delivers stronger governance and better problem-solving. What really delivers the gains however is ‘belonging'- people from diverse backgrounds need to feel they belong, that their voice is heard and that they can be their authentic selves in the workplace. Then they will bring different ideas and experiences which in turn create resilience.
What's your top tip for tech providers that are serious about tackling their gender or diversity deficit?
It is impossible for women to transform the industry from a minority position: men must call out sexism, and recognise where there's bias in their own behaviour. The starting point must be understanding the diversity in your own organisation, establishing a benchmark and setting some goals. Then a survey of attitudes can be a catalyst for increasing awareness, education and change.
What is your advice to women and girls thinking about a career in the channel?
There is a real opportunity for women in technology - one third of best paid jobs for women are in the sector. It has been my experience that greater visibility as a minority can be an advantage- it is simply easier to be noticed as a woman in a room full of homogenous men. So be visible, be smart and challenge bias and sexism when you come across it. Be proud to be yourself.
Who is your career mentor?
I was lucky to be supported and inspired by a group of female entrepreneurs and business leaders put together by a coach we were all working with. I know that not everyone has access to people who can support them to realise their potential so I am excited now to be part of a team creating ‘The Channel Community' to do just this- creating a platform for people in solitary roles to be part of a community with access to potential mentors and mentees."
How has Covid impacted the diversity debate?
Undoubtedly the pandemic had the potential to create opportunity for increased diversity as more flexible, inclusive work patterns have been adopted across many industries. Unfortunately entrenched gender norms have left women disproportionately burdened by increased domestic responsibilities and with the workforce less visible, the conversation about diversity is suppressed and gender bias can persist unnoticed.
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