Men As Allies In Gender Equity: The Pivotal Role Men Can Play

The perceptions and realities of men and women in the tech industry aren’t the same, but men can play a critical role in helping their female counterparts grow and see success in their own tech career paths. A panel of channel executives discussed the ways men can help advocate for women at WOTC West 2023.


(From L-R) The Channel Company’s Cass Cooper, Awecomm’s Brent Yax, The Channel Company’s Dana Sell, Cisco’s Christine Otts and Nutanix’s Christian Goffi

CRN parent The Channel Company has plenty of research that paints the clear picture that there’s a disconnect between the perceptions and realities of men and women in the tech industry. For starters, a 2023 survey of 451 tech executives found that 83 percent of men believe that the work environment has improved for women over the last two and a half years, compared to 54 percent of women who feel the same way.

It’s undeniable: Women tech executives and leaders need the support of their male counterparts if true gender equity is to be achieved. At The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West event, a panel of both men and women channel executives moderated by The Channel Company’s DEI Community Leader Cass Cooper discussed the barriers that currently exist that stand in the way of men becoming true advocates for their female counterparts. They also shared insights and strategies for overcoming these real-life obstacles.

Daniela Gutierrez, CDW, Sirius national business leader for Hitachi Vantara, who was in attendance during the panel, began thinking about what her company is doing to get women hired and more engaged. Her male manager, she said, is an ally for women. “The manager that I have right now that hired me at Hitachi makes sure to have a well-rounded team. He’s got half women, he’s got Black women, he’s got Mexican women, he’s got men. He really makes a very prescriptive decision when he looks at: ‘Who am I going to bring onto my team and what culture am I breeding.’”

Sponsored post

While Gutierrez’s company has a solid foundation in place to bring women to the table, not every tech company is in the same position today. But having more men as allies within the tech industry can move the needle, according to the panelists.

What follows are thoughts from the panelists at the event in Palm Springs, Calif., on gender discrimination, hiring equity, and mentorship.

Brent Yax, CEO of MSP Awecomm, on gender inequity in tech and closing the tech gender gap

I think there’s two parts to this. Unfortunately, just looking at the high-level macro picture, only 25 percent of tech degrees that go out annually are to women. So at some point it will be a supply/demand issue. I think in the U.S. there’s [about] 7.3 million tech jobs, 25 percent of which are [held by] women. That’s a difference between the men and women of three and a half million jobs. That’s not easy to solve and that’s a big issue. So, it has to go at some point back to the education and how do we get more women into the system in the beginning. Now the other side of that is, internally, there needs to be better advocacy for women to get higher level positions. I think the only way you can solve it, at least from our view and what we’ve done, is put more women in higher positions and then you’ll get more women that come into the company to grow. So, we’re about 35 percent female in our office and it’s a part of how we run the business, a part of the culture. So, I think it’s two completely separate issues, but there definitely is a supply issue. We have to be real about it.

Christine Otts, Director, Global Marketing Velocity and Partner Program, Marketing and Communications, Cisco Systems, on finding mentorship

I’m not sure [mentorship] necessarily has to happen within your organization. I think you [should] build your network with multiple people you can go to. I have several men who are mentors that I have worked for in the past that I can go to ask their opinion or ask for their advice. It’s really important not just to have one person, but to have a network of people that you can tap into.

I definitely feel blessed to have worked with and for a company that [is] taking all the necessary steps to make sure that we do have the right programs, that we do have sponsorships, diversity, pay equity. We’re not perfect, they still have room to grow, but they are looking to continue to evolve and innovate wherever they can to make sure they are equal across the board.

Christian Goffi, Vice President, Americas Channels and Commercial Sales, Nutanix, on diversity and equity in hiring

I think we’re doing a lot of talking about this, but there’s not a lot of doing around this. The word that comes to mind is integrity. And I think integrity is what happens when nobody’s watching. Those are probably the most important things that we can do. What happens when the interviewer leaves the room and the panelists are discussing them. One of the biggest things I look for is diversity and let me expand the view of diversity: diversity doesn’t stop at gender. Diversity goes into ethnicity, it goes into race, it goes into age, it goes into everything. And I see a direct correlation between innovation and diversity. When you’re stuck in a rut and you keep doing things the same way and you just can’t get the results you desire, that’s a call to action that maybe you’re not as diverse as you need in the thought process of your team. So, during interviews [and] in those discussions when no one is watching, as a leader, that’s when leadership comes out. That’s when you’ve got to realize the power of diversity and if you embrace it, it brings a ton of value to the organization well beyond just the eye movements or anything like that. It’s just good for business.

Dana Sell, Vice President, Sales, The Channel Company, on gender discrimination as a barrier to women’s career growth

This one drives me crazy. There are so many talented people out there - men and women - and obviously, we’re dealing with something that’s been around for a really long time, but the fact that [gender] is a measurement or a qualification, that just boggles my mind. I just struggle with that one because I work with so many wonderful women and have these friendships and people in my network and I feel terrible to hear that. The one thing I would say is, I hopefully can help evangelize others, hyping up people and making sure that if you’re doing good work that you’re getting recognized. That has to be something that you do that’s very rewarding for yourself and it certainly helps others regardless of gender. You have to do that. But then, to also maybe be a little bit more proactive in certain moments in time where you think: ‘This could actually really impact somebody’s life. This could really help them out.’ You got to be genuine about it, but you also can’t be shy about it.