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WOTC: With Gender Discrimination In The Spotlight, The Channel Has Critical Duty To Inspire Next Generation of Women In Tech

Lindsey O'Donnell

With the spotlight increasingly on gender discrimination in the workplace, the channel has a critical role in paving the way for the next generation of women in the channel, said Lisa MacKenzie, senior vice president at The Channel Company.

’Together we, as women of the channel, have a duty to inspire the next generation of women,’ MacKenzie said at the Women of the Channel East conference, hosted by The Channel Company and taking place this week in New York City.

Over the past few months, gender discrimination has been thrust into the forefront on the heels of the #MeToo social media campaign, where women used the hashtag to denounce sexual assault and reveal their own experiences with harassment.

[Related: Women of the Channel East Content At a Glance]

The #MeToo movement became widespread as some tech companies also came under fire for gender discrimination over the past few months, shedding light on harassment and issues women face in the workplace.

A recent survey by The Channel Company found that out of 220 women respondents, 39 percent said they have been a victim of harassment. Meanwhile, 26 percent said that while they have not personally been a victim they know someone who has been, and 29 percent said they have not experienced harassment.

While less than half of women survey respondents said they have experienced harassment, ’anything over zero is too much,’ said MacKenzie.

On the heels of the #MeToo movement, the channel needs to take a step back and take a hard look not just at harassment in the workplace, but the cultural norms driving discrimination against women in technology in general, she said.

’This is important, and we have to do something about it as managers and leaders, but there’s also a lot of other things we have to deal with as women,’ MacKenzie stressed.

According to the survey, 72 percent of respondents believe that men are paid more than women in IT or channel positions. And 72 percent said there are not enough women in leadership positions within their company’s management team.

’Strong women feel that they are judged more harshly … that’s a worry that many women have,’ said MacKenzie.

Maintaining a healthy balance between work and family life is another issue women face. According to the survey, the top obstacle respondents faced with regard to their career growth was the fear of losing work/life balance.

’How do you make careers more appealing to women that need to have that work and life balance? That’s something we need to collectively figure out to make [the industry] more appealing to women,’ said MacKenzie.

Looking forward, there are many ways managers in the channel can inspire the next generation of women to pursue a successful career.

For instance, businesses can start to attract more young women to high-tech careers through giving more visibility into female role models and mentors. ’All it takes is connecting with that one woman who can be a mentor,’ said MacKenzie.

Dawn McCale, vice president of sales at of Campbell, Calif.-based Groupware Technology, said it is ’critical for women to have a mentor.’

’It’s definitely valuable for companies to ask themselves how to help the women in their businesses by creating programs to link women with role models,’ she said. "I am seeing channel companies look to invest in new programs around creating mentorships for women."

Channel businesses can also drive more STEM-related programs in schools for girls, adopt better incentives targeting college-bound high-school students, and drive changes in educational methodology.

’It’s not about changing laws. ... It’s about digging deep within ourselves to figure out how we can make a difference, including giving more visibility into role models and mentors,’ said MacKenzie.

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