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The Channel Angle: Here’s How To Aim For More Diversity And Inclusion In 2022

‘The channel needs to support more inclusive organizations, where people can work together effectively without fear or being uncomfortable because of who they are,’ says BlackHawk Data CEO Maryann Pagano.

[Editor’s note: The Channel Angle is a monthly CRN guest column written by an executive that focuses on the triumphs and challenges that solution providers face. If you are a solution provider executive interested in contributing, please contact managing editor David Harris.]

By Maryann Pagano

As a woman in the channel for more than 20 years, one of the many reasons I embarked on the journey of starting my own business was because I felt there were not enough women in decision-making roles. I felt the industry lacked the overall promotion of women. Starting my own company gave me the opportunity to build a business where employees could feel empowered regardless of gender, race, or who they are. I wanted to be the person that could help to mentor, coach, and foster a collaborative environment.

According to a 2020 report from McKinsey, only 21 percent of C-suites represent women. That is a disappointing statistic—especially when research shows that company profits and share performance can be close to 50 percent higher when women are well-represented at the top.

[Related Story: Time To Prioritize Diversity In The MSP Space]

The channel needs to support more inclusive organizations, where people can work together effectively without fear or being uncomfortable because of who they are. When organizations proactively accommodate different needs, everyone can thrive personally and professionally.

Almost 70 percent of companies say that the work employees do to promote diversity and inclusion is very or extremely critical. However, there is still a disparity between male and female leaders. Organizations need to focus on promoting the women already in their workforce who do exceptionally well. Mentorship programs can teach young female professionals how to advocate for themselves and feel confident in their ability to take on more responsibility.

We have come a long way in our efforts to increase diversity in the workplace. In 2020, 87 percent of companies were highly committed to gender diversity, compared to only 56 percent in 2012. There is increased effort by the organizations that certify suppliers, like WBENC, to develop new and creative ways to help grow businesses. Let’s continue to champion the businesses that take an active role in diversity and inclusion.

I am proud to have led the charge to bring more diversity and inclusion to my community through BlackHawk Data. At BlackHawk Data, we promote other women in the channel through weekly social posts that share their successes and experiences as women in IT. We also interview women and post their stories to our blog.

I follow six rules to hold myself accountable at BlackHawk Data. They are:

  • Make an honest effort to hire a diverse workforce.
  • When hiring vendors like courier services, cleaning services, etc. select diverse suppliers.
  • Work with manufacturers that share the same core values around helping diverse solution providers succeed.
  • Find ways to give back by mentoring other companies. Help them navigate the IT world using diversity.
  • Work with the larger, more established solution providers that have strong and effective programs to help grow diverse vendors.
  • Promote other women and women-owned businesses in the community.
  • The city of New York has done a good job over the last few years of putting pressure on those that claim to support diversity but pivot and don’t do it correctly. The goal of diversity programs shouldn’t just simply be handing out a portion of revenue to a diverse vendor. How will that help shape that vendor to grow their business beyond just that 2 percent one-time margin hit?

    Revenue and profit are helpful, but many organizations need nurturing, mentorship, and guidance to continue to grow outside of a single transaction. It’s my goal to be part of their learning experience and their journey to a more diverse channel.

    Maryann Pagano is the CEO and one of the founders of BlackHawk Data, a New York-based managed service provider.

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