PCR talks to Nancy Hammervik, EVP, industry relations at CompTIA about why diversity in the channel is so important in creating a work place of inclusion
The tech industry is predominantly white and male, which has historically made it challenging for underrepresented minorities to gain a foothold in leadership. But this is now beginning to change. Nancy Hammervik, EVP, Industry Relations at CompTIA speaks of the groundbreaking working being undertaken by CompTIA to break with these conventions.
Can you start by telling me a bit more about CompTIA?
CompTIA is the technology industry’s largest, global trade association. Our mission is to drive the global technology industry, and its workforce, forward. We were founded 40 plus years ago, in Downers Grove, IL, and are still headquartered there. We are a self-funded, not for profit organisation, funded by the sale of our technical certifications and training. We offer three of the top five selling technical certifications in the world: A+, Network+ and Security + — all vendor neutral. We train and certify more than 300,000 globally, each year. Our membership includes vendors, distributors, integrators, resellers, MSPs, business technology consultants and anyone who builds, sells, distributes or influences the adoption of technology. We have strong, active, member communities in the US, UK, Canada, Benelux and ANZ markets.
Why is diversity in the tech sector so important?
Diversity brings enhanced perspective, creativity and valuable innovation to the work we all do. Studies show workplaces with diverse cultures perform better, offer greater employee satisfaction and tenure and excel at customer relations. We live in a diverse world. Our customer bases are diverse. When homogenous teams build products, services and solutions, they cannot accurately consider or represent the needs of their diverse audiences. The business impact of diverse cultures is important but far greater are societal considerations. Unconscious bias and systemic racism have existed for far too long, leading to discrimination, inequalities and disproportionate opportunities for certain demographics. The skills gap in the global tech industry is tremendous – and a growing, significant concern. Nearly every single industry is dependent on technology and we do not have enough people filling available jobs in tech and more importantly, there are not enough people even interested in joining our industry. At CompTIA, we feel the underlying issue is a “confidence gap” vs a “skills gap” as the truth is, anyone can learn technical skills. CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures Foundation trains and certifies thousands of at risk and undeserved populations annually. Within 10 weeks, an individual completely new to tech can learn and pass an A+ certification exam and be a candidate for a help desk job.
So why aren’t more individuals pursuing careers in tech? Why aren’t more students thinking about careers in tech? Many think a career in tech is not for them because they don’t know anyone in tech and are intimidated by assumptions. This is especially true for minorities, including women. They don’t see people that look like them in tech, so they assume it is not a job they can do. The tech industry is still a predominately white, male industry, failing to attract diverse populations. We will need to attract and embrace individuals from diverse backgrounds if we ever hope to fill all the open positions.
Are you seeing a growing trend towards the tech industry encouraging more women into the sector?
I have been a woman in tech for 35 years. Yes, for at least the past ten years I have seen an increased focus on embracing women, but there is still so much work to do and the needle has not moved that much. Still, less than 15% of the global tech workforce are women. The number of students pursuing computer science degrees in college is actually decreasing. It is important for people to understand that it is not just about hiring women. It is about creating conducive workplace cultures that retain women. More than half of the women in tech abandon their careers at the midpoint. Few grow into the ranks of management, and less than 5% grow into an executive position. Women still feel isolated in their tech jobs, experience bias and grow weary of continuing to have to prove themselves as a woman in tech.
Can you identify any examples of women in the tech industry and the impact they are having?
I am so impressed with sisters Susan Wojcicki, CEO, You Tube and Anne Wojcicki, Founder and CEO of the personal genomics company, 23andMe. They are just brilliant executives. And they are building workplace cultures conducive to every single employee’s growth and opportunity. Seeing high performing and successful women run companies that are so relevant today is inspiring for all women. But it’s more about the grass roots efforts than big names. To create change, we need lots of smaller efforts and initiatives that continue to beat the drum. I applaud PCR’s initiatives to recognise women in tech. This issue is full of women doing great things at their companies to inspire, encourage and create opportunity for other women in tech. CompTIA just released winners of our annual “Spotlight Awards” and for the first time, all four were women! Caitlyn McCaughran, global events manager, Auvik Networks (a UK member company); Hannah O’Donnell, director of sales, Collabrance; Deborah Kestin-Schildkraut, global blockchain ecosystem marketing leader, IBM and Susanne Tedrick, cloud platform technical specialist at IBM were all recognised, by their peers, for their commitments to diversity, leadership, mentoring and community service. Each year the nomination and selection process reminds us that there are many people from our member companies who display their caring, compassion and dedication daily; not for the accolades, but because of their commitment to building a stronger industry with opportunities for everyone.
What information or core message are you currently putting out to industry members in regards to developing a culture of diversity within their business strategy?
CompTIA has long held a position on the importance of diversity. We launched an Advancing Diversity in Technology member community (free to join) in 2016. This community, now called Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity, focuses on giving businesses the insight, tools and resources they need to build diverse workplace cultures. While large businesses often have a diversity and inclusion policy, most small and medium businesses do not. CompTIA is specifically helping these organisations adopt a diversity and inclusion strategy. Having worked on diversity issues for the past five years, many organisations are now approaching us for help as they seek to improve their strategies.
We’ve also recorded a 4-part podcast series “Culture Shift”, covering topics from ensuring equitable practices to having conversations about race and kicked off our annual, industry event ChannelCon earlier this month with a town hall on diversity issues, led by our CEO and members of our Board of Directors. It’s available on YouTube.
How do you see this impacting the future of the industry and the benefits it will bring?
Building diverse and inclusive workplace cultures will help to attract and retain more talent for the industry. As people start to see more “folk like them” in a prospective workplace, they will be more inclined to join, to perform and to excel. We will start to fill all those open jobs, reach higher levels of loyalty and tenure, and tech will truly be able to deliver on its promise of being a competitive driver for all industries and economies. Tech is a wonderful, exciting, high paying, rewarding career that is accessible to anyone – anywhere, given the opportunity and training. Offering employment opportunities to diverse populations will also have a direct, positive impact on individuals, families and communities. Finally, we will also see more opportunity, value and innovation in our products and services, as diverse perspectives contribute.
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