Homepage This page's url is: -crn- Rankings and Research Companies Channelcast Marketing Matters CRNtv Events WOTC Jobs Dell EMC Newsroom Hitachi Vantara Newsroom HP Reinvent Newsroom IBM PartnerWorld Newsroom HPE Zone Tech Provider Zone

Women Of The Channel: We Need To Work Harder To Keep Women In Technology

Getting more women into technology is only the first step in increasing diversity, Women of the Channel executives said. As many women are leaving the field, the executives said the focus now needs to be on retaining talented female employees for the long term.

When her son was younger, Lynne Thornton, now senior director of partners licensing at Irvine, Calif.-based Ingram Micro, almost left the technology field. It was hard to balance having a child with the long hours and lots of travel involved in the field, she said.

"I think it's very demanding," Thornton said about the technology industry. "Technology changes constantly, so it's very fast paced. I think that brings on additional stress when women are thinking about work-life balance around home."

While Thornton ended up staying in the field and working out a job-share program with the company to better balance her time, her sentiments about the demands of the field aren't unique. Women are "dropping out of technology in record numbers," Janet Schijns, chief marketing technologist and vice president at New York-based Verizon, said in her keynote address at the recent Women of the Channel Leadership Summit in New York.

However, the bigger problem, Schijns said, is that many of those women have no plans to return to technology. To illustrate the problem, Schijns cited numbers from a recent Fortune survey, which found that of 716 women who left technology, 625 said they had "no plans" to return to the field and only 3 percent said they would "definitely like to."

At that rate, Schijns said, the technology industry faces a major problem, with an estimated 2.6 million open jobs in science, technology, engineering and math by 2020. At that same time, more than 1.5 million women will have dropped out of the STEM fields if they continue to leave the field at the current rate.

There could be many reasons for those exits, Schijns said, including isolation, work-life balance, discrimination and more. In a survey of Women of the Channel attendees, 31 percent said their biggest obstacle to career growth was a fear of losing work-life balance. Sixteen percent said their biggest obstacle was that they weren't sure what they wanted to do, and 14 percent said they were happy where they were.

The survey also revealed that perceptions of the gender gap overall remained, with 67 percent saying they believe men are paid more than women for the same position. Sixty-seven percent said they believe that women are held to higher standards than men when it comes to justifying a promotion.

From a business perspective, what makes that conversation critical is more than just about the talent gap -- it's about profit, said Denise Messineo, senior vice president of human resources at Reston, Va.-based Dimension Data Americas. According to a study by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., businesses with more diverse leadership boards are more profitable, with the most diverse quartile of companies studied being 15 percent more likely to outperform their market peers.

"It really is a business imperative when you look at it … from a profitability standpoint, how much more profitable businesses are with women in leadership," Messineo said.

A lot of the emphasis for getting women into technology has been placed on encouraging girls from a young age to think about technology as a career option. For example, Messineo said, Dimension Data Americas is launching a pilot program with local schools to mentor students with disadvantaged backgrounds in STEM, providing a coach and mentor as well as scholarship and internship opportunities in the field.

That's an approach that appears to be helping, said Jennifer Anaya, Ingram Micro vice president of marketing for North America, who shared examples of her daughter wanting to get into coding and seeing more of her daughter's classmates being interested in and rewarded for achievements in STEM.

"I think that we're making progress," Anaya said. "I think we're starting to get people to really think about it. Once you're aware of it, you can think about improving it."

From there, the women agreed that leadership now needs to take the next step to promote a culture in the workplace that fosters ongoing growth for female employees and puts them in a position to stay with the company. Many mentioned mentorship and sponsorship as key ways that organizations can do that, with 71 percent of women at the event saying they are a mentor to someone and 99 percent saying that relationship was worth the time invested. Thirty-one percent said they themselves are being mentored, with 100 percent of those respondents saying that relationship was beneficial.

One example of a formal mentoring program within an organization is Fremont, Calif.-based Synnex's F2F organization, in which mentoring is one of the program's four pillars. The distributor ran a pilot program this year for women both inside the organization and at its reseller partners, which Denna Mensch, vice president of TSD Marketing as Synnex, said had "great success," citing examples of promotions and skill development for those involved. The distributor is now launching a formalized program in 2016, which Mensch said she plans to take advantage of herself as a mentee of a millennial mentor.

In addition to mentoring, Messineo said, Dimension Data has also started holding meetings, in which senior leadership members talk to women in the solution provider organization about their career paths and experiences. That's a "grass roots" way to inspire women in the organization, she said.

"You can be a woman leader as a peer leader … and bring those women along with you," Messineo said. "Just because you don't lead a team doesn't mean that you couldn't be a female leader that is the one reaching out at the grass-roots level to make sure women can get to where you are."

But it isn't just up to the women in the organization to change the conversation, Messineo said. There is often an unconscious bias, she said, as men don't always realize that the actions they are taking prevent women from speaking up. Ingram Micro's Anaya agreed, saying that even though the distributor is roughly 50-50 men and women on the leadership team, there have been times where she had to remind male leadership of important tactics to allow women to participate fully in the conversation. That's something Messineo said she also plans to bring up at the next Dimension Data executive meeting.

"That's where it starts. It starts with open dialogue," Messineo said.

Back to Top

related stories



sponsored resources