PCR Woman of the Year blog: Gemma Telford talks about how important it is to celebrate successful women in the industry

‘Why the industry needs a Woman of the Year award’

Gemma Telford is principal at the IT Marketing Agency and finalist in the PCR Woman of the Year event, which takes place in London on October 17th. You can find out more about the event and book your tickets here.

I was honoured to be nominated as one of PCR’s Top 50 Women in IT earlier this year, and even more so to be asked to write a blog about the upcoming Woman of the Year awards.

I think it is great that PCR is highlighting successful women in an industry that is still heavily male dominated. When I first started in IT, I was often the only woman at events and while I didn’t mind it did strike me as unusual. Today it’s great to see many more women taking part in events and also in a whole range of roles in IT, including sales and technical roles, which in an industry that is already male dominant, were often even more so.

However, in the office, when the Woman of the Year award was announced it kicked off a bit of a debate. Those of you who know Simon Dobson (he prefers that to be followed with ‘Man and God’, I prefer it to be followed with ‘my colleague’) knows he likes nothing better than a good argument (he prefers ‘philosophical debate’).

“Why is it even necessary to have a Woman of the Year?” he declaimed. “I don’t see anyone celebrating the top men in IT… surely that’s just sexism in reverse? You girls want to have your cake and eat it.” (He continued in this vein for some time until we’d all wandered off).

Much as I hate to admit it, he may have a point. It would be a bit weird to see a ‘Man of the Year’ award. Perhaps equality has happened now and we’re missing a trick? Maybe things have moved on so much. Women are so established in the workplace now that we shouldn’t pick out or highlight their success?

But hang on. Apparently, women make up 47 per cent of the working population, and yet only 14 per cent work in IT. So there is still clearly a need to attract more women into IT just to get to the national average. Also, sad but true, even in the last decade a male graduate can still expect to earn around 20 per cent more than a female graduate. Apparently, it’s also true that an average woman working full time from 18-60 would earn £361,000 less than a man.

On the other side of the debate, companies across all sectors with the most women on their boards of directors significantly and consistently outperform those with no female representation – by 41 per cent in terms of return on equity and 56 per cent in terms of operating results. Leeds University Business School also reported that having at least one female director cuts a company’s chance of going bust by about 20 per cent.

So, back to our original debate – where does that leave us? Well, as a woman working in IT myself, I can only say that I love it and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been. I’ve met some fantastic people, built great relationships and am honoured to call some of the people I’ve met my friends, clients and colleagues. I can only think that more women working in the channel can be a good thing. And perhaps one day it really won’t be necessary to highlight the success of ‘minority’ groups because discrimination, in any shape or form, will be a thing of the past.

In the meantime, I’ll be raising a glass to all the women nominated at the PCR Woman of the Year event in London on 17th October. A few of my colleagues are coming with me – both male and female. And if a Man of the Year event happens, I’ll be going to that too. Success should always be celebrated and to me, that sounds like a good excuse for a party.

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