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Channelling Equality – Fail to address gender bias and you will just fail

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CRN, a leading channel publication, recently launched a ‘Women in the Channel’ project to highlight the vast gender gap the industry has always had but never addressed. The research suggested that women make up a minority of top level job with one of the stats finding that 76% of the top 50 UK resellers that disclosed their senior teams have either none, or one, woman on their leadership team.

Gender diversity is a topic hotly debated across all industries with individuals often blaming it on HR, industry specific issues or negative mental mind-sets; in fact it’s all of the above and much more! No-one should be hired based on their gender, but it’s a problem in the channel industry that a man is seen as the perfect replacement for another man. Yes, this is an old-fashioned viewpoint but one that unfortunately remains true today. Businesses must comprehend that refusing to address the issue doesn’t only repress women – it limits a company to continuously underperform.

When it comes to the channel it becomes difficult to pull out statistics that explain the full picture, although CRN’s study found that only 14% of leadership roles at the top 50 resellers were female. The broader IT industry however is an entirely different story. Recent figures released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that women hold less than a quarter of top roles in half of London’s technology start-ups. Another report from Hired found that 69% of men, in technology, sales and marketing jobs, received an initial higher salary offer than women for the same job at the same company.

Call it unconscious bias or a skewed, dated industry perspective but what all figures show is the industry needs to address its gender issues now. Under David Cameron, the government wanted to force companies to disclose their pay gaps but this only applied to businesses with over 250 employees – what about the hundreds and thousands of companies that have under 250 employees? Now Prime Minister Theresa May, who is a well-known gender equality advocate, must lead the call for fairer pay.

Nevertheless, IT and the channel mustn’t rely on the government to address an issue that should have never arisen. Businesses must take action themselves and ultimately be driven by one fundamental fact: businesses will be more profitable if they are more diverse. Why? Because they will make better decisions and be more in tune with their customers.

Recognising the benefits of progressive and positive gender diversity, or overall diversity for that matter, can enable businesses to profit. The globalised world warrants a heavier reliance on different views, opinions and ideas. Higher levels of gender diversity can empower firms to make well rounded decisions that impact and engage their eclectic mix of customers. A diverse group of people can impact a wider audience, better engage employees and help a company understand all of its stakeholders. When it comes to the channel industry, individuals must be strong and intelligent regardless of gender and race.

Admitting there is a problem is the first step in taking action

Some simply don’t take it seriously enough for it to even register as a top issue. Too many pigeon hole it as a HR issue but it isn’t! It should fall upon the entire business to take action: alter decision making processes, actively promote diversity and recognise the need for change within business functions.

At Fujitsu, we’re taking strong action on gender diversity, but as a company we aren’t yet perfect. 25% of Fujitsu’s workforce is female, including UK CEO Lucy Dimes, and the latest grad intake was 34% female. For any future IT business to be successful, they must create an atmosphere where women want to work and feel comfortable doing so. Women must be given the opportunity to succeed in senior positions – there is no space for narrow minded views. If you can’t see there is an industry problem then you are part of the problem.

Too long have industries suffered by ignoring this issue. Businesses must rid themselves of close-minded cultures and make decisions that are in tune with their diverse customer group. Those that embrace gender equality will create a prosperous strategy that unlocks financial benefits. Not only does it instil the message of inclusion that all businesses should be striving towards, but it reaffirms that a career opportunity should boil down to skill, experience and whether the person is the right fit. There needs to be a culture shift and companies should be taking action now. The channel and IT firms that recognise this issue before it is too late will be the ones to prosper. Fail to address gender diversity, and you will just fail.

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