Four young strong women or girls standing together. Group of friends or feminist activists support each other, women supporting women

Co-authored by Anushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion and Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat

It’s no secret that women are hugely underrepresented in the tech industry.

According to a study, two of the biggest barriers for women are a lack of mentors and female role models within the industry.

This ongoing diversity problem can often leave some women in tech feeling isolated, undervalued or like imposters.

That’s why it’s important we branch out and support other women, allow them to feel heard, valued and enabled to reach their career goals.

Here, Anushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion and Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat, discuss collaboration can empower women through a new vendor-client mentorship programme.

Taking back the reigns

Due to disruption caused by COVID-19, which impacted the way we lived and worked, studies revealed years of hard work to fight gender equality in the workplace could be reversed if no action was taken.

At the height of the pandemic – when the social side of work was disrupted – Softcat decided to launch a new vendor-client mentorship programme with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to create a safe space where women could meet, share and learn.

In March 2021, a week-long campaign was launched for International Women’s Day, consisting of a panel session of senior leaders from both organisations.

Following the campaign’s success, the Mentorship Circles programme launched in June 2021 to provide a place for women in predominately junior to mid-level positions to network, share their challenges and support one another.

Collaboration accelerates diversity and inclusion

According to a previous study, the key to embedding impactful diversity and inclusion programmes is having a collaborative approach across all levels of an organisation.

And by merging with a vendor, who equally understand the importance of gender equality and championing women’s voices in the tech sector, Softcat has created three streams where women across both organisations are encouraged to host sessions, build peer to peer relationships, have meaningful conversations, gain insight, share best practices, and learn from external individuals with a different perspective.

The first stream focuses on ‘Building confidence & building your brand’ where women learn how to nurture self-confidence, discuss credibility and visibility to develop their career, build their brand based on values, skills and passions, and share ideas around best strategies and techniques.

Meanwhile, the second is all about work-life balance, where female employees can discuss the importance of balance and how to manage it, talk through challenges balancing career and home life, navigate demands and responsibilities and inspire others to achieve a better work-life balance.

Finally, the third stream is specifically designed for women in technical roles. With such an underrepresentation for women in tech roles, this creates a safe space for individuals to discuss current trends, encourage each other to progress and develop, consider new ways of making technical roles more attractive to women and discuss the challenges they face in a male-dominated industry.

It means so much more than looking at mentorship schemes internally., Collaborating with external vendors adds another element to it and organisation’s need to be looking at ways to refresh their efforts for diversity and inclusion.

A study found that half of the employees believe their company could improve their efforts, while another revealed that some even look at how senior managers focus on it.

By collaborating, individuals can benefit from fresh perspectives on similar experiences that others have had in different settings, which is valuable for growth and progression.

Championing females to overcome imposter syndrome

Unfortunately, it’s still fairly common for women to experience imposter syndrome, particularly those in mid-junior level roles.

However, while this seems unfair to those who are hard at work in workplaces making key changes for gender diversity and inclusion, the harsh reality is that there’s still only just over eight percent of women who are CEOs at fortune 500 companies, despite this number rising.

To tackle the issue, Softcat and HPE’s Mentoring Circles space looks to champion female employees at whatever level of their career, giving junior-mid level roles a chance to talk to those in senior positions.

Plus, there is scope to create more streams for females in apprenticeship positions and senior-level employees to share expert opinions on topics across multiple circle sessions.

Through careful mentorship, Softcat hopes to aid employees across both organisations find their voice and value within the company and give them the confidence to progress further up the career ladder.

If women support women, women in the tech sector have the chance to thrive in an otherwise underrepresented industry.

About the authors

Ellie TindsleyEllie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat PLC

Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat, is an active part of Softcat’s community networks, including Supporting Women in Business and Softcat’s Pride network. Ellie has worked in the Manchester office for nearly 5 years, and believes diversity of thought is a super power which everyone holds.

Anushka DaviesAnushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion at Softcat PLC

Anushka is Head of Talent, Engagement & Diversity at Softcat plc. Anushka joined Softcat with a Maths and Computing degree to go into IT Sales. 11 years ago Anushka moved into an L&D role, as Softcat began their journey in opening regional offices to drive the need for talent and support customers nationally. She has run an L&D function of 11 people who are truly focused on ensuring that a learning culture is adopted in all parts of the organisation.

Anushka now as Head of Talent, Engagement & Diversity looks after leadership programmes whilst looking after succession planning and is responsible for overall employee engagement ensuring that employees are happy at work. She also works on all things Diversity and Inclusion related and mental health. Over the last 18 months a huge amount of focus has been paid on ensuring we can remove the stigma associated to mental health in the workplace. Softcat signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge in January 2018.