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Growing opportunities for women to make a difference

On International Women's Day some of those women working in the channel have talked of their experiences and urged others to follow their lead

Gender diversity in the channel has grown in importance over the past few years with the traditionally male industry coming under pressure to open up to more talent.

On International Women's Day some of those that have chosen to build a career in the channel and the IT world have shared their experiences, talked of the progress that has been made so far but also called for change to continue.

Laura Seymour, senior director of worldwide channel marketing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, was first attracted to work in an industry that was fast moving.

"The IT channel, and specifically the tech industry, is dynamic and rapidly changing - because of that it’s full of opportunities. From a marketing perspective it leads in many areas and is at the forefront of B2B digital marketing. I’ve been in the IT industry now for 20 years and never looked back," she said.

Her CV includes time at HP and HPE, changing roles every two or three years, with those vendors have not making gender an issue when it comes to job opportunities.

"Being female hasn’t affected my career - I’ve had the same opportunities any male would have had. The flexible working culture and the enablement of smarter working by technology has also allowed me to successfully balance a career with a family," she said.

Others in the industry have also talked about the excitement of working in a sector that has the potential to change the lives of customers.

"Many people assume that the tech industry is quite boring, but the opposite is true!" said Shelly Hershkovitz, product manager, research & innovation at Imperva.

"It takes a lot of creativity and imagination to create products that provide solutions to the day-to-day frustrations that customers face," she added "I also love talking to customers. I take great pride in being able to develop good relationships with my customers. It is refreshing to look at things from their point of view and understand their pain-points by putting yourself in their shoes."

When she started in the industry there were not that many female role models but the hope is that the situation is changing with many more senior management positions being held by women.

Adam Binks, CEO of managed service player SysGroup, has a management team that is 50% female. That has been a result of the best people filling those positions and his growing business is supporting efforts to get more girls interested in IT, with an involvement with Liverpool Girl Geeks.

"I am a big supporter of women in tech. My wife is a woman in tech. There weren't enough females in this business but about 40% of our workforce is female now and I am a big promoter of it," he said.

Seymour at HPE has also witnessed things change for the better: "Women are in the minority in the tech industry but there are increasingly more women in leadership roles which is great to see."

"I’d definitely encourage any girl or women to join the IT industry. It’s a very exciting time in technology. Technology is changing the way we live and work at a dramatic pace. The industry can offer so many opportunities, irrespective of your gender. So I’d say to any girl thinking of joining - be bold and be driven – in this industry, you’ll be rewarded!," she added.

But she has a message for those women in the IT channel, encouraging them to recognise that they have an important role to play.

"As a woman in the IT channel, we must recognize that we have a unique voice and embrace the different qualities and richness that we can bring to our organizations that can make a difference. Being a woman in today’s IT channel is exciting, and I’m convinced that together we can influence gender parity and truly balance for better," she said.

Rebecca Karch, customer success director at Delphix, also wants those that join the industry to make themselves heard.

“I started in tech about 35 years ago, and I’ve been told that "women don't belong in engineering" more times than I can count. This month is a celebration of how far women in tech have come as well as a renewal of focus for how far we need to go in the future," she added "Don't back off. Keep on 'leaning in' and assert yourself. You have valuable ideas worth contributing and deserve to be taken seriously. It's not a popularity contest, so it's ok to seem a little pushy.”

The message coming out of the industry this International Women's Day is that there are opportunities and a warm welcome waiting for those that choose to investigate further.

“Women have historically been undervalued and underrepresented in business, even more so in ICT. At Getronics, we want to change that by supporting women, providing role models for girls aspiring to a career in ICT, even if they lack the right references or information, and backing them to defy the existing stereotypes,” said Deborah Exell, global head of human capital and business transformation at Getronics. “Equal opportunities for women aren’t something special we should aspire to, but self-evident and a daily standard – be it in terms of recruitment, training, promotions or compensation.”

Michelle Jones, global head for channel and field marketing at Atos, is also urging girls to choose careers in the IT world.

“Opportunities are there for the taking and with an ever changing workplace, from AI to bots and the gig-economy, it’s an exciting time for women and girls to get into the IT industry. Digital technology is all around and it’s important for younger generations to be well educated about the possibilities, with a focus not only on technical roles but on the business benefits that the whole industry provides. This will not only improve women’s ability to get into the industry but also boost the level of diversity with a mix of ideas and opinions coming through," she said.

“There are inspirational women working at every level in fast-paced and innovative industries such as IT and we should all have the same opportunities to be successful - whatever your gender," she added.

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