Women Of The Channel: Diversity In Technology Channel Isn't Fixed Yet, But Making Progress


Beyond leaders at the top, women are seen stepping up and getting stronger roles throughout channel organizations, Women of the Channel executives said. For example, Enright, who has been at Avnet for 12 years, said that when she started at the distributor she was one of the first female leaders in the Americas. Over the past several years, that dynamic has really changed, she said. Her colleague, Challman, said that she has seen the same thing, both within the company and in the industry at large.

"I don't know that I can comment on other industries, but I can say I've been in the technology industry for 20 years, and what I've observed and seen is a lot of movement with women, even just within Avnet. I've been here almost 10 years, and Avnet is focused on developing its leadership teams. Today we see more women represented in the organization and in decision-making roles," Challman said.

Distributor and vendor executives said that they have even seen that diversity extending into their reseller channels, a fact echoed by channel executives themselves. The channel's roots are often in engineering jobs, Avnet's Enright said, which frequently attract less women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey, only 26.1 percent of computer and mathematical jobs were held by women in 2013, compared to 57.1 percent of all professional occupations.

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However, Enright said that she's seen that balance in the reseller business starting to change.

"It's been really nice to see how women have come to play a stronger role in the value added reseller," she said.

While all Women of the Channel executives said that the channel is improving, some said that certain areas aren't improving as fast as others. For example, Lana Akamine, program manager, global partner enablement at Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat, said that she has seen sales development, in particular, slow to improve in the channel.

"It's really nice to be able to see so much more diversity as women in the technology workplace, as well as other minority groups. In the partner ecosystem, I do a lot more of the sales development and whatnot, and I think that one is still not quite there yet," Akamine said. "There are some very successful, great women in these areas of the partner ecosystem, but the ratio is not great for women to men."

Development programs such as mentoring, peer groups and education are all helping change the dynamic in the channel and in the tech industry at large, Lisa Citron, director of channel sales at Seattle-based F5 Networks, said. The programs are incredibly helpful, Citron said, but she said she dreams of a day that they would no longer be needed to build diversity.

"There is a long-standing perception that the tech industry is a boys' club. But that's definitely changing, often due to companies supporting the mentorship programs. Companies like Cisco, Deloitte, Microsoft and others are helping the effort. And with a recent uptick in companies supporting STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] in elementary and high school, I'm hoping that a generation from now we won't need female-specific mentorship programs," Citron said.

NEXT: The Road To Diversity Doesn't End Here