Karen McInerney

Doug Woodburn
clock • 3 min read
Karen McInerney

Karen McInerney

Group financial controller, Computacenter

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

Organisations tend to focus on one or two high-profile role models when talking about the subject - this can increase the feeling of being excluded from decision making. We need people visible in a variety of different roles and at different levels including engineers, project managers, apprentices and executive members so everyone can see someone they can relate to. 

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

Initiatives to call out behaviours that are not inclusive are very helpful, creating accountability is key to driving change. ‘Speak Freely' initiatives are also very valuable, providing the organisation is really listening and takes action using the feedback they collect.

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

I have been working a very long time so the progress has been massive and the industry is unrecognisable. Female leaders are no longer a rarity and women are being talked about not just for being a leader that is female, but for what they actually contribute to an organisation.

What should senior management teams be doing more of to help create a more inclusive industry for everyone?

Championing many different versions of what great leaders look like is crucial. Role modelling is important, but we need to encourage people to be authentic and find their own leadership style.

How did you first get into the IT industry?

My first job out of professional accounting practice - a role I thought would be good for a couple of years but then I woke up at the "ten-year party".

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

I think for many years the industry suffered from a tendency to recruit in the image of the accepted leader stereotype and that led to limited diversity of thought and experience. While I can understand the arguments against adopting a target-based approach to diversity, I think that overall, if managed well, this can lead to a more inclusive recruitment process. I have enjoyed watching the participants of our ‘Growing Together' female development programme demonstrate confidence and really establish themselves as exceptional business leaders.

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

I try to draw great leadership practices from a wide range of people that I have met. The executive leadership team at Computacenter includes some exceptionally talented people, especially Sarah Long and Julie O'Hara who are probably some of the strongest female leaders I have worked with.

Do you believe Covid has hampered or helped gender diversity efforts in the IT industry?

A bit of both. Generally, we read that the burden of the extra childcare falls disproportionately on women - so it is difficult to be fabulous when you are distracted by the little people in your life.  But overall, I see much more momentum for women in leadership roles on this side of the pandemic - perhaps that is as a result of greater acceptance of more flexible ways of working but also I think people are more willing to spend time sharing meaningful insight with others, and this helps to extend networks.

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