Managing director, ICA
Name: Pam Blanchard
Role: Managing director of ICA, a Cheshire-based business comms provider
Context: Blanchard co-founded ICA in 1995. A partner of Alcatel, Avaya, NEC, Mitel and LG, it provides telephony solutions to businesses nationwide.
Career highlight so far:
Longevity. To be in this industry with a business 25-plus years is absolutely the highlight of my career; to have built the base and have the support of such an amazing team continues to highlight my career.
Who is your role model?
A lady called Vicki Hantke who works at Dialogic Inc in the USA. I worked for her aged 21 and she inspired me into the world of tech, to be the very best version of myself, to work hard for the results and accept it won't always be easy.
More recently I also find myself looking to the younger version of me as my role model at a time when I had so much determination and drive for success and so many barriers to overcome.
Do you think the IT industry's gender diversity deficit - and diversity deficit more widely - warrants highlighting?
Yes, absolutely we have a responsibility to drive change and this won't be achieved with an annual female-focused event that, in my personal opinion, only pays lip service to the gender gap. At the age of 23 with no business degree and no training I came to the industry with a willingness to learn and hunger to succeed. I strongly believe that taking the approach that these skills can be taught to any individual with a willingness to learn offers a much wider opportunity to both individuals and businesses.
I also feel that we need to recognise a broader definition of diversity as many still think of diversity as gender, race or religion but it's time to think outside the box.
What are the key business benefits of having a diverse workforce?
The technology industry is growing approximately three times faster than the whole economy and without a diverse team we are unable to represent diverse views and opinions. I for one have a very diverse customer base that only dictates the need and urgency for a more diverse workforce. The women in the business bring a very unique set of skills, empathy and problem solving that I wouldn't get from a male-only team and this only serves to enrich the business, each other and the service we offer.
What's your top tip for tech providers that are serious about tackling their gender or diversity deficit?
Change needs to come from within. Businesses need to demonstrate a real commitment to diversity and inclusion. They can start by being more honest and transparent about pay gaps, by re-wording and re-thinking the opportunities in the company when inviting candidates to apply and to be aware of unconscious bias.
What is your advice to women and girls thinking about a career in the channel?
Don't let anyone or anything put you off. If you have passion, drive and a willingness to learn then this is absolutely the industry for you. We are still failing young women and girls due to the lack of mentors and role models to offer support and guidance. But this is changing slowly with new STEM initiatives and companies like ‘girls can code' that encourage more females entering the industry. But this change won't happen overnight. Most may find it difficult to name a famous female working in tech but we don't have to be famous to offer support and guidance - we just have to join these initiatives and make ourselves available to help drive change.
Who is your career mentor?
The closest I have come to a career mentor are the business leaders I met on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business. The advice and support I have received since completing the course two years ago has been absolutely invaluable. A true mentor adds real value and doesn't cost anything because as soon as a fee is introduced the dynamics change and there is pressure to deliver results.
How has Covid impacted the diversity debate?
This may be one of the only positives to come from Covid-19 as employees have had the opportunity to demonstrate the ability to work from home, to juggle childcare, home schooling, or providing care to the elderly. Zoom has provided a window into the lives and homes of all and many business leaders now face similar challenges to those within their teams offering a unique opportunity to expand empathy and compassion as they share these experiences first hand.