diverse-fintech-image freepikBy Hayley Mooney, UK General Manager, Crayon 

Everyone knows that the tech sector has a problem with gender balance – and the UK tech channel is certainly no exception.

While things have undoubtedly improved since I started my own career, there are still plenty of places we can point to where it’s clear that career opportunities are simply not being made available equitably. 

Given how long-standing this challenge is, I think it might be more important and interesting to ask what was different for women who do take on leadership positions in tech, rather than going over yet again what caused this disparity in the first place. Thinking about my friends and colleagues in under-represented groups from across the industry, one thing that comes up time and again is an early positive experience which planted a seed of confidence to go further. 

For me, when I joined Bell Microproducts (AKA Ideal Hardware) at the age of 19, there was probably a ten-to-one ratio of men to women in the business. That’s a daunting environment, and certainly one that I was anxious about at that age. However, I had many male allies that encouraged my development. They encouraged me to keep going, keep working, and most importantly to keep asking for things. 

That early lesson about being vocal and looking for opportunities has made all the difference to me. Making sure that more people from diverse backgrounds get that vital word of encouragement at a formative point in their lives is one of the reasons why I helped to found Tech Channel Ambassadors with peers from a range of UK channel businesses. 

Formed as a community interest company, we work with channel organisations to help develop their strategies for more equitable long-term recruitment. We also collaborate with schools and local government bodies to raise awareness amongst students of the career opportunities they have in the tech channel, including through direct outreach via our ambassador programme. Our mission is to ensure that every group, whether they are leaving education, returning to work, or changing career, can access those opportunities. 

There are a couple of key parts of the story we tell to potential recruits which I have found really have power to shift mindsets about a career in this industry. One is correcting the misapprehension that tech necessarily means coding: from the inside, we know that the channel requires as diverse a range of skills, both technical and interpersonal, as any industry does, but from the outside people often still see programmers and engineers as our be-all and end-all.  

The other is talking about how the channel puts people in the driving seat of making new technology useful and valuable. AI is a great example of this: while the vendors, understandably, take the lion’s share of press attention, the channel has a vital role in connecting the dots to make these innovations meaningful to people’s work lives and personal lives alike. At Crayon we recently announced an expansion of our partnership with Google Cloud to deliver AI-driven solutions to businesses. That connection to something that’s so huge in the current cultural conversation makes a huge difference – and that’s something that the world of technology is great at delivering. 

I know that rebalancing our workforces and our leadership is possible. While it’s just one metric, I’m proud that the senior leadership team in our UK business is 62% female.

That’s down to the fact that we have spent a long time being very conscious about how to find and encourage the talent. It’s also, of course, down to the fact that lots of vital people in the business have taken that step to back up the skills they know they have with a willingness to put themselves out there and push themselves further. 

That’s a virtuous cycle, and one which – with the right encouragement – I think can be replicated everywhere in our industry. 

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