Looking just at the numbers, the diversity of the tech industry isn't very promising.
In the technology industry as a whole, women make up 23 percent of computer programmers, 7.5 percent of computer network architects and 17.3 percent network and computer systems administrators, according to 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In Google's recent high-profile release of its diversity data, while, overall, the company's employees were 30 percent female, only 17 percent of technology roles were held by women as of January 2014.
However, Women of the Channel executives said that, while the data was still disappointing, the industry is leagues ahead of where it was a few years ago.
"I feel like we're headed on the right path, but there's always room for improvement," Alison Challman, Phoenix-based Avnet vice president, HP Marketing & Brand Strategy, said.
Not only is there room for improvement, having diversity in the workplace will become crucial, Challman said, as women are becoming decision-makers in end-user organizations, such as marketing and finance, where before [technology solutions] might have been sold primarily to professionals in male-dominated areas such as IT. It comes down to the age-old sales principle of knowing your customer, she said.
"We can't discount the influence women have in the decision-making role in B2B," Challman said. "The truth is you want to be able to embrace the strength of women and men, and when you do that the outcome is going to be so much better. I think companies realize that and are working towards that, and we are seeing progress. Are we there yet? No. But we're certainly on the path. I feel good about where we're headed and what I see," she continued.
Even within technology itself, women are stepping up into leadership roles. Many of the Women of the Channel executives specifically cited technology leaders such as Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty as role models pioneering the way for women in technology.
"The reality is that this marketplace tends to be very heavily male-dominated so there hasn't been a voice and role for women in the technology landscape. As you look over the last several years, I've seen a growth in new women in leadership roles but if you also think about it, you start to see women leading large technology [companies], such as Meg and Ginni," Nicole Enright, vice president, marketing and strategy acceleration, at Avnet, said. "That's a new era for the technology industry."
Denna Mensch, Fremont, Calif.-based Synnex vice president of technology solutions, agreed, saying she's seen a huge change since she started at the distributor 12 years ago.
"I think when I just started in this industry, it was a male-dominated industry. I don't feel like that anymore. I do feel like obviously there are a lot of males in the industry but there are a lot of women [too]," Mensch said.
"From an industry perspective, I think we sit in a great place," she continued.
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