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Women Of The Channel 2018: Meaningful Change

Now, more than ever, women are helping each other succeed. They're becoming mentors, getting more involved in groups and events, and helping to highlight career opportunities.

Nearly a year and a half since the #MeToo movement began picking up steam, the campaign is having a meaningful impact on many organizations.

The movement, which began as a way to shine a light on sexual harassment, and later, inequalities between males and females, has produced a silver lining in the workplace: Now more than ever, women are helping each other succeed.

Tech Networks of Boston, a women-owned managed service provider, is a signer of the "100% Talent: Boston Women's Compact," an initiative established by the Boston Women's Workforce Council aimed at making the Greater Boston area the premier place for working women in America by closing the wage gap and removing both the visible and invisible barriers to women's advancement.

[RELATED: Power 100: The Most Powerful Women Of The Channel 2018]

Ashley Fontes, communications manager for Tech Networks, believes it's crucial to invest in women in the IT space. Fontes manages Tech Networks' participation in the Boston Women's Compact by providing bi-yearly statistics that help the group achieve its mission.

"It's important, because by helping [women advance], we will build a more equitable workforce where all talent is cultivated and valued," Fontes said.

Today, more women are serving as mentors, or are becoming more involved in women-focused events and charities. There are still a number of unique challenges associated with being a woman in the IT space, but there are also many bene­ ts that aren't getting the attention they deserve, according to executives from the Women of the Channel 2018 list and attendees of recent The Channel Company's Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West.

"Michael Dell put forward an initiative to [bring] senior women from other companies to Dell for leadership, which is one of the reasons I'm at Dell," said Chris Wolff, head of global OEM and IoT partnerships for Dell Technologies. "If you look at our worldwide partner conference, the lion's share of speakers on stage were female leaders, so it's a very cool place to be right now."

In a 2018 survey of Women of the Channel by The Channel Company, 11 percent of women in the IT space reported having seen positive changes in men being more conscientious in the workplace as a result of the #MeToo campaign, and 13 percent of women reported the same results for their female colleagues. More positive news is that 50 percent of Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West attendees reported having a mentor, or someone campaigning on their behalf, an important factor to many successful executives.

Fontes had a mentor during her first year at Tech Networks thanks to her company's founder, Susan Labandibar.

"[Labandibar] wanted to help me as much as she could when I ­ first started and made it a point to ­ find me a suitable mentor among her business contacts," Fontes recalled.

The disconnect between awareness about available career options and technical skills is still a problem, and one that mentors can help address, said Jennifer Anaya, vice president of marketing for Ingram Micro. To that end, Anaya participates in her local Girl Scouts STEM program. She also led the creation of Ingram Micro's ­ first Women's Leadership Forum last year.

"As part of this new forum, we hosted associates from our Buffalo, Indianapolis and Irvine offices and held monthly roundtable sessions and quarterly conferences that featured guest speakers and internal subject-matter experts who shared about their careers, as well as on business topics that would help our female associates learn more about their opportunities inside, and outside the company," she said.

Donna Grothjan, vice president of worldwide channels for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, mentors and coaches members of her team and those outside her organization. She's also been known to help identify good mentors for others.

"Asking for help doesn't come easy for everyone, so I always keep that in mind," she said. "And sometimes just providing your perspective on potential scenarios people are dealing with is all they need at the moment -- an outsider's point of view can be priceless."

Mentors, regardless of gender, are important for any young executive in the IT space, but the more women in leadership roles that can be exposed to younger generations, the better, said Wendy Petty, senior vice president, ­ field sales and services for data modeling software developer erwin.

"Women really need to be around and build relationships with other successful women and learn from them," she said. "That's critical."

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