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Transformative thinking

It’s the 21st century but still in many instances the issues of racial and sexual inequality persist. 2020 has been a year of great change and has seen the uprising of ‘Black lives matter’ campaigners stand up and fight for equality and equal representation and this may just be the catalyst that will encourage more diversity and inclusion of minority groups across both society and industry. Michelle Winny, PCR’s editor speaks to the channel to see what activities are being adopted to encourage a culture of diversity in the work place.

For the tech channel inclusion and equal representation are aspects many companies are actively seeking to encourage by adopting a culture of diversity at work but not before much effort and hard work has gone on in bridging this divide.

Samehra Malik Channel Marketing Manager at Seagate believes there needs to be more education around the technology channel space at a higher education level: “we need better internship programs in the UK, much like Seagate offers in the US. Giving opportunities to the next generation to experience hands on what is involved and the brands within our channel, would inspire and encourage people to enter the industry,” she says.

Malik explains that Seagate has “admittedly made progress with diversity hiring over the past years however the industry still has a long way to go.” She points out the channel still needs “diversifying at senior and board level.” Also from a marketing perspective, she says it is still very much a “male dominated style of storytelling”.

Speaking about other areas within the channel that could benefit from diversity inclusion Malik says, “Gaming is a good example of where there are drivers affecting diversity; from the point of view of the next generation of gamers. Millennials and Generation x will be key to driving change at a societal level when it comes to diversity through representation for, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and disability.”

For Alex Tempest, MD, BT Wholesale and Ventures, embracing diversity means greater clarity on how to gain workplace entry within the industry: “A key aspect of supporting diversity in the channel is through dispelling the myth that people must go through university as the only route into employment in the technology space. To ensure that a larger variety of people have the opportunity to work within the channel and more widely across BT, we’ve run a successful apprenticeship scheme in our wholesale division for a number of years, which is part of a wider and highly successful BT Group initiative.

“The scheme runs both a GCSE and A-level structure, again widening the pool of talent for young people that have a passion for the channel and telecommunications space. With university costs rising and uncertainty in the job market, this has meant that thousands of apprentices from a variety of backgrounds have benefitted from the scheme, with almost 80% of apprentices that qualified more than five years ago still with the business. That said, our schemes aren’t age dependent, they are open to anyone that is of at least school leaving age when they you start their apprenticeship.

“Diversity takes many forms, and so BT also has ten different diversity networking groups throughout the business, giving people support and community structures to engage with other people that may face the same challenges that they do. Spanning gender equality, ethnicity, LGBT+, ability, faith and carers’ networks as just a selection, these networks are crucial to ensuring that all issues that our workforce may face or worry about can be brought to light and engaged with to make a concrete difference to our culture and the way we operate”, adds Tempest.

A new way of thinking
Nick Foster, HR director at IT channel services provider, Exertis believes a change in perception is needed: “Unfortunately, a lot of stereotypes still exist within the channel and we are actively working against this. The office-based culture of the past will have discouraged many from considering the channel as an option so we need to build on what we’ve learnt over the past few months and ensure we design a working environment that is appealing to a wide range of people.”

Foster explains that diversity & inclusion objectives are now included in all Exertis’ managers performance plans and are being “highlighted and promoted in every town hall meting the company has.”

“We have recently issued all of our managers with a diversity & inclusion toolkit and each one has been asked to ensure they contribute to making a demonstrable positive shift in diversity representation within their area of the business. This is being achieved through completing unconscious bias training, implementing all reasonable measures to ensure a diverse range of candidates are interviewed for vacancies and demonstrating active involvement in diversity programmes either within our business or with customer/vendor/industry body,” Foster says.

“It is no longer acceptable to not have an opinion or stance on diversity. If we are not actively promoting diversity in our recruitment practices, we are missing out on a huge proportion of talent. Moving forwards, candidates will select an employer based on the experience they can offer and not necessarily the monetary reward. Candidates will look for a company that is ethical and authentic in their approach to business and the culture that is offered,” adds Foster.

Female empowerment
Women in particular within the tech sector have been an underrepresented minority with a very low level of females in leadership and management roles. For Agilitas recruiting females into the industry has been pivotal to their business as Sue Horsfall, HR director at Agilitas explains: “We are really keen to particularly encourage more women into our business by promoting it as an attractive proposition with a genuine career path into senior roles with continuous support, development and encouragement.

“Diversity in the workplace is essential to create a thriving business, especially when it comes to employee engagement. At Agilitas, we have filtered this into our DNA naturally, and recruit purely based on talent, future potential, and synergy with our core values. We have been running for 30 years and diversity has always been an important part of what we do,” Horsfall enthuses.

Horsfall believes the industry needs to be a little bit more “connected”: “Some businesses have a very good diversity initiative, but others are maybe slightly behind the curve albeit unintentionally. There has to be more transparency across businesses with leaders actually leading by example. The businesses that embrace diversity are the ones that will benefit from securing the best talent and ultimately achieve greater success,” she says.

For future industry growth, Horsfall thinks the shift towards remote working will be a gateway to opening up the channel: “Remote working will definitely help to fuel diversity; people’s mindsets are now changing into thinking what is ‘the next normal?’ People are building much more personable relationships, meaning that integrating new people into a business is going to be accelerated and should become easier. COVID-19 and the changes in our working environments are going to be the main contributors to accelerating diversity. Essentially, the Coronavirus pandemic is the stimulus for driving change across multiple topics and issues within a range of different industries.”

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