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Ripe with opportunity: Helping women make their mark in the channel

To mark International Women in Engineering Day Celine Cazali, UKI Chief Partner Officer at SAP, shares her thoughts on the importance of diversity across the industry

In today’s working world, digital is everywhere. It’s what is driving new innovation, keeping employees connected and supporting businesses to scale long-term. Yet the technology industry finds itself at a critical moment. On the one hand, the future is filled with excitement. The rise of Generative AI this year has shown how new digital applications could transform our lives. On the other hand, the sector continues to be shaken by macro-economic uncertainty and an ever-growing skills gap that could place its future in jeopardy.

We know from research that 75% of companies worldwide report significant talent shortages, while at the same time, 1.1 billion jobs are liable to be radically transformed by technology in the next decade. The skills issue is not just widespread – it’s pressing. And yet, worryingly, businesses are overlooking a key part of the solution.  

According to figures, women hold just 26% of computing-related jobs today. Not only does this mean businesses are missing out a on a pool of potential talent, but the lack of representation prevents women from making valuable contributions to the long-term development and application of tech.

International Women in Engineering Day therefore comes as a timely reminder that while we’ve made progress, there’s still more to be done. Women have so much to offer the tech industry and it’s time we challenge the status quo and make long term, meaningful change. As a woman working in the technology industry, I’m passionate that we continue to support women and promote technology careers – especially at such a critical time for the sector.

Finding a home for women in STEM

As the need for digitally skilled talent increases, we must ensure there are equal opportunities for women to get involved in the sector and develop new skills. The industry is ripe for innovation, and women, with their varied and different experiences, can play a key role driving this forward. And with the UK Government’s continued push on its technology and science agenda, we must promote this further to ensure our industry remains balanced and brings women along the way.

There are simply too many biases. Typically, when we think of the technology industry, we usually associate it with young white men in developer roles. These stereotypes often originate in the experiences and ideologies we encountered in our childhood and school years and are more often than not, very wrong. The fact that the IT industry is much more diverse, both in terms of the workforce and the roles that exist within it, is often overlooked, which is why it is so critical we promote a diverse group of role models to young people. By encouraging children and teenagers to undertake STEM courses, giving them the confidence to find their place within the industry, we can begin to move the needle. 

Opportunity in the channel

One particular area of the industry which is often forgotten about is the channel, for it’s not the stereotypical technology role we’re used to hearing about. There are huge opportunities for women wanting to work in the sector though. I myself have had the pleasure to collaborate with so many talented fantastic women, and the space allows women with the opportunity to build real, long-lasting relationships and work on mid-term initiatives from start to finish.

In my experience, the channel industry is doing better than most. It is very balanced, attracting people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and a brilliant opportunity for women to build a strong network with partners, sales leaderships teams and customers. It also gives women the opportunity to take on roles of influence. We have so much to gain from, and also offer, the industry – and it’s our role to help others realise the opportunities for them.

No one working style works for all

 Historically, women were prevented from progressing in their careers because of childcare and family commitments, but since the pandemic this concept has been truly flipped on its head. With the greater flexibility offered by home and hybrid working, women can now make their role work for them. And businesses have realised the structure of a 9-5 role is not always fit for purpose.

Trust in employees is critical to this. Open dialogue between managers and employees right from the very beginning can ensure that there’s a combined feeling of support and security in their role no matter what their personal situation.

People managers also have a powerful influence on an employee’s sense of belonging, which can have a huge impact on the retention of any employee working in any industry. However particularly for an industry that’s male dominated, making women feel like they have a role within the business can make the difference between them choose to leave, stay or return to the industry.

Paving the way to a better industry

The channel, and technology industry as a whole, has so much to offer women. It is ripe with opportunity to work on impactful projects from start to finish, build trusted partnerships and develop a great network. At the same time, women have so much to offer the industry in return, and it’s our responsibility to help them do so.

The next year will be an exciting and challenging time for tech. AI tools such as ChatGPT are having an industry-wide impact, from the way we work to how we make business-critical decisions. The situation is evolving rapidly and the opportunities are huge. It’s important that women can be inspired by the likes of Mira Murati, Chief Technology Officer at OpenAI and help shape its future use.

With all its current challenges, the tech industry needs women to drive impact and innovation, and this International Women in Engineering Day is an opportune moment to inspire, engage and help accelerate the inclusion of women to the benefit of the entire industry.

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