Tech Data's David Watts

A broader spectrum

Tech Data’s launch of SPECTRUM, a new business resource group aims to embrace LGBTQ+ personnel encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We caught up with David Watts, Tech Data’s Senior Vice President, UK and Ireland to find out more.

Tech Data strives to maintain a culture that celebrates diversity, equality and inclusivity. David Watts, Tech Data’s Senior Vice President, UK and Ireland, explains more about the company’s new business resource groups (BRG).

What is Tech Data’s SPECTRUM business resource group for LGBTQ+ personnel and why was it created?
SPECTRUM provides LGBTQ+ colleagues with a workplace community in which everyone can express themselves openly. Allies and anyone at all interested from Tech Data UK and Ireland can attend the regular (presently online) meetings, which will take the form of open forums on a specific subject, such as Gender and Sexuality.

Attendees are invited to express their views and put questions to the SPECTRUM panel, which consists of lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, and non-binary gender colleagues, and one colleague who is the parent of an LGBTQ+ teenager.

We are holding 30-minute drop-in sessions every month to discuss LGBTQ+ related subjects, such as Gender, Coming Out; Openness in the Workplace; and supporting LGBTQ+ Children. Larger-scale quarterly events, featuring guest speakers from LGBTQ+ organisations and Q&A sessions, will also be organised.

SPECTRUM is Tech Data’s business resource groups (BRGs), which provide positive forums for our colleagues to discuss common experiences and goals with individuals of like or similar interests. We have been running our Elevate BRG, dedicated to empowering women to thrive in their careers through development, education, and networking, for some time in the UK and Ireland.

Through the Spectrum team, we are engaging with customers and vendors who have or are considering BRGs in this area, so that we can share knowledge, experience, and resources. We are also planning to run some joint panel sessions over the coming year.

What social groups is it aimed at?
SPECTRUM is aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, and non-binary gender colleagues, and colleagues who have children or family members who are LGBTQ+. It is open to anyone and everybody who has an interest in learning more or who wishes to provide support in an active way by being an ally. A drop-in session on allyship is planned for the autumn.

What is Tech Data’s commitment to creating a culture of diversity and inclusion?
Our belief at Tech Data is that our people are the best and brightest in the industry – and they are as diverse as the products and services that we offer. Diversity and inclusion are thus a cornerstone of our company culture. Through effective collaboration, and by harnessing the different experiences and backgrounds of our people, we can be more productive, innovative, and effective as an organisation.

Tech Data is committed to maintaining a culture that celebrates diversity, equality, and inclusivity. We are really looking forward to seeing how the SPECTRUM UK and Ireland team can make a difference to the LGBTQ+ community and all colleagues. We had an amazing response from those colleagues who took part in our survey to help us better-understand LGBTQ+ affinity and experience within our UK&I organisation and an excellent turn-out for our first online meeting in June.

In this initial panel session, we introduced the SPECTRUM BRG and its team members to the business, explained our vision and why SPECTRUM is important to colleagues and to Tech Data. We shared details of our intranet and the educational and other content available and presented a history of LGBTQ+ progress on equality and rights over the last 50 years.

This was followed by a lively Q&A session, and it was great to see such a strong interest and enthusiasm from all areas of the business in understanding the challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces.

For our July drop-in session, we focused on Gender and Sexuality and had over one hundred attendees. This included an introduction to pronouns and their use – and why they are so important to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation were also explained and discussed. There was a great deal of interest in pronouns and their use and further sessions on this topic are coming up soon.

Why is it important that other companies within the channel look to create a similar workplace of inclusion for staff?
It’s important for all companies in the channel – and indeed, in all industries – to value the differences of employees, customers, and partners. This is one of our greatest strengths potentially. We need to make sure we harness that strength. By embracing the diversity of our colleagues and cultivating an environment of inclusion, we enrich our company, culture, and communities. The more we do that, the more we gain and the more open and inclusive we become, the more confident and assured all our colleagues will feel about expressing their ideas and innovations – and contributing to the development and advancement of our business. In the end, it is about creating a culture and environment that is positive and inclusive for everyone, which brings out the best in all colleagues and from there feeds into the delivery of an enhanced customer experience.

What does the channel stand to lose if we do not adopt a more inclusive environment?
A great deal of creativity, energy, and innovation. Inclusivity is vital to the encouragement, promotion and sharing of common experiences and goals amongst colleagues. We need to empower people to aim high, achieve their very best, and develop and build their careers in all the different areas of our industry. The IT channel is a dynamic and fast-moving sector, but the need to be inventive to find new ways of doing things and solving problems remains. If we are to continue raising the bar on service delivery and customer experience, we need to draw on the widest possible range of views and insights.

How do you think social inclusion has changed over recent years in the channel?
It has improved but still has a long way to go. Being frank and open about that – and encouraging further awareness of the issues around inclusivity – is vital if we are going to make really significant and permanent change. The situation is improving now though – and the pace of change is accelerating. We are seeing many more channel companies being open about their commitment to inclusion and taking positive action to ensure that their businesses are doing enough to ensure equality and diversity within their organisation. SPECTRUM is just one manifestation of that, and I think we will see more initiatives of this kind being launched by channel companies over the next few years. Tech Data is one of the companies leading the way in this area. As an industry, we are certainly not there yet, but we are making good progress and the signs are positive.

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