As I reflect on the last 12-months, I'm reminded that the UK channel is dynamic, resilient and can evolve to tackle any challenge thrown at it.
But the biggest challenge we still need to tackle is female representation, the lack of women leaders in the IT industry and - consequently - in the channel. This issue isn't going away, despite the focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) across many organisations and individuals.
We're moving in the right direction, although slowly, and the CRN Women in the Channel awards have been instrumental in highlighting the role women play within their organisations.
Is a diverse workplace that important?
We just need to look around the table during a meeting or at a screen on a video call to see that our industry lacks female representation. But, to fully address the issue, we need to get to the heart of why it's one of the most significant issues facing today's business leaders. How important is D&I for employees and the industry as a whole? To find out, we've collaborated with Intel to speak to 5,000 people across various markets to produce a report that examines D&I in more detail.
The pressure to create a diverse workforce is today being pushed at from the top, from senior leaders like myself. But, as we welcome more and more Gen Z employees into the workforce, we're also seeing pressure from the junior side of the industry, as they make us challenge our traditional beliefs of the workplace.
Regardless whether you live in the US, Germany, China, Brazil, or the UK, employees are demanding diverse workplaces across the board. They want to work with people who look like them, and this has now become so fundamental that it impacts their choice of potential employers.
The business risk here is that, if we cannot attract talent into our workforces and cannot create workplaces where everyone can flourish, the female employees we do have will walk out of the door and into organisations where D&I is cherished.
However, despite D&I being on the corporate agenda for many years now, most respondents in our survey suggested that it is still a slow march of progress. In the UK, only 55% of employees say things are getting better in their workplace.
Also, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the work done to date integrating D&I into their organisation. In the UK, one in four UK employees state that more work needs to be done, especially in regards to diverse leaders, reducing the gender pay gap and hiring.
How can we build a more diverse IT channel?
We are at a pivotal point in our D&I journey; the gender pay gap reporting has only illustrated that the situation isn't getting any better in the UK and the IT industry.
One of the opportunities COVID-19 has presented is levelling the working environment. This is especially true within sales. Eliminating some of the more male-focused hospitality events has helped level the playing field. Over the last ten months, I've seen more women than ever before at the various events I've attended, whereas historically I've been in the minority.
Creating an environment where everyone can fully participate and build relationships with partners and customers is vital, especially within a sales team. Our industry is based on relationships, and giving everyone the chance to create a positive relationship helps to further the career growth of women in sales.
I always talk about how I've benefitted in my career from having a strong mentor. We need to think about mentorships beyond our organisation's programmes. If you're inspired by the work and success, reach out and ask for support. LinkedIn and Twitter have made the world a much smaller place, making it easier to make new connections. I mentor several individuals, men and women, and take a tremendous amount of pride supporting their career growth.
The final comment I'd make is that we all need to play a role in calling out negative behaviours. If we're sitting in a meeting and someone makes a sexist or a politically incorrect comment, we're co-signing that behaviour by not calling it out. I have a zero-tolerance for this in my team and encourage anyone to challenge any form of behaviour they find inappropriate.
Looking at the views of the 5,000 individuals we spoke to, D&I is no longer a nice to have. It's fundamental to an organisation's success. The generation entering the workforce today has very different values and want their employers to share their values. If we're going to attract and retain talent, we need to build D&I friendly organisations. If we don't, we're only going to see the pay gap between female and male employees continue to grow, to the point where it can't be reversed as employees think with their feet.
Read the full report here: Diversity and Inclusion in Global Workplace, September 2020.