Estelle Johannes

Doug Woodburn
clock • 4 min read
Estelle Johannes

Estelle Johannes

Senior director, member communities, CompTIA

What's the most pressing issue preventing progress with diversity today that no one's talking about?

We should see diversity as an opportunity and advantage to us all. Diversity opportunities, not issues. Besides the fact that it makes good business sense to have a diverse organisation, as many reports show, companies are more innovative, more likely to attract talent and retain more staff. This certainly affects your bottom line.  Clients may look less favourably on you and your business if you don't practice and show diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) values, making you less likely to win contracts. This affects your bottom line. Diverse thinking and problem solving can provide more efficiencies. This affects your bottom line. Make small changes, but the best thing to do is to make a start. Some people don't know how to get started; there are loads of resources and guides to help.  And it's the right thing to do! 

What are the most effective policies and initiatives that companies can implement to promote diversity in their workforce?

Be deliberately inclusive. Be transparent. Keep communication open and give people different ways to share information, make it easy, use surveys, suggestion boxes; use multiple ways to collect feedback. Have an open culture and move this out of the HR department and into the workplace, see the plan and belief from the top down. Try and keep consistency with surveys so you can track trends and share meaningful data back to the team. Be clear and reiterate the opportunities, and don't position it as a nice to have. It's a part of the success of the organisation to align diversity practice with organisational goals. It must be a part of the strategy. Be respectful and show understanding. Education and training are key. Be transparent with regards to career progression opportunities, show fairness, support and trust.

How much progress do you believe the industry has made in diversity since you started working in IT?

I can see a change but we still have a way to go. It's encouraging but we need to position diversity as a benefit to us all, not a threat. We need to do more to celebrate and champion diversity on all levels. Role models don't have to be senior with 15 years' experience; they come in all shapes and forms. Education, demystifying, acceptance and - most crucially - action will help us move the needle.  What should senior management teams be doing more of to help create a more inclusive industry for everyone? It is everything I mention in the question about effective policies and initiatives, as well as belief, understanding and support. Have a workplace and culture where diversity is embraced or have a fear of being treated differently.  Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk.

How did you first get into the IT industry?

I got into the industry through chance, support and luck. I studied marketing and was given a chance in an IT consultancy firm. My boss at the time valued grit and tenacity over qualifications. I was very fortunate to be in a job where diversity was a norm, and we were all in it together. I learnt lots of life lessons.  

What have been some of your experiences (both good and bad) with how the IT industry has historically approached diversity?

My first job was at an IT consultancy and we were a really diverse team. I remember in my 20s, engaging with people outside of the company; the room felt very different to what it feels like now. I can feel the change. Ignorance can be dangerous. I would encourage people to be inquisitive. Don't be afraid to ask question. Asking questions shows me that you are interested and you mean well. I would also say don't weaponise diversity; people should not be afraid of exploring and learning to the betterment of humans. 

Who have been your biggest role models in your professional life, and how have they helped you to succeed?

I was very lucky to have strong women in the industry supporting me and mentoring me. Mentoring can be tough love sometimes, and lessons learnt can be tough, but worth it, only if you learn from it.

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