Katya Ivanova, VP Worldwide Inside Sales at Acronis offers her views on diversity in the channel.
Diversity in the channel, just as in IT in general, remains a major issue for many companies out there. I therefore want to share a few tips on how to fight the diversity battle. I run 200+ sales organisation at Acronis, and I am proud to say that we have built a team, which is close to 50/50 percent split between male and female both in leadership and individual contributor roles.
The Oxford English dictionary defines diversity as the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc. But who is responsible for including and involving diverse people in the workplace? Should it be on the company to drive diversity programs or on employees? In reality, it is the responsibility of both: employer and potential employee. Potential employees should apply for the role they want to get, not only to the one they think they can get.
The majority of people constantly doubt their skills and as a result deprive themselves of opportunities. Today, out of 20 CVs I receive for sales leader positions in the US, 17 would be from white males, 2 from females and 1 from black applicants. Applying simple mathematics (without even talking to these applicants), white men have a 17/20 or an 85% chance of getting hired while females have a 10% chance and people of colour just 5%. So, diversity rule #1 is to apply for positions to which you aspire, and ask for those opportunities irrespective of whether you believe you can do the job or be accepted. The worst-case scenario you will not get hired, and that is exactly the same outcome as if you never applied in the first place.
Diversity rule #2 is for managers to support and coach women. Women tend to have a common belief that, if they are good enough and deserve a raise or promotion, their manager will recognise it and give the raise or promotion without the employee even asking. While this does happen, it is not a typical occurrence. Women need to stand up for themselves and ask for what they believe they deserve. The other stopping factor, which dramatically differs between men and women, is that men will confidently sign up for a job they might not be qualified for, whereas women would wait until they are qualified or even overqualified before they apply. This again creates a disproportionate pool of candidates where most are male and just few candidates are female. Managers play a crucial role here, as they need to empower women and help them see their true worth and impact.
Diversity rule #3: Parents must support children with different hobbies, pursuits and interests. Often, whether consciously or unconsciously, we create a mindset in our children that certain jobs and hobbies are gender or ethnicity specific, for example, that hockey is a male sport, gymnastics is for girls, or programming is a male occupation. Providing children with the opportunity and encouragement to try out different fields is a massive investment in their future. They will grow to know themselves and will not be afraid to go after what they really want to do in life instead of what is expected of them.
Diversity rule #4 is to promote success stories more often. Most people are followers not leaders by nature. It is therefore against their character to take risks and go against the ‘known’. By promoting success stories, we inspire others to follow in the footsteps of the firsts and confidently face the unknown. Currently in the US, fewer than 18% of computer science graduates are women, fewer than 8% are Hispanic and under 6% are black. This automatically creates a problem of lack of diverse talent pool as there are simply not enough candidates on the market. By sharing success stories, especially with children and teenagers, we help them see the future they can have in any field they find interesting.
Diversity rule #5: It is never too late. Do not create glass ceilings in your head by thinking that you are too old to make a change in your career. If you really are passionate and committed to be successful, other people will recognise it and will support you. Knowledge, experience and diplomas are just one piece of the puzzle; however, motivation plays a crucial part in becoming successful. Motivation to succeed is the most powerful engine for self-development and growth.
To conclude, whether you are a hiring manager or a potential employee, take risks, aim high, and don’t be afraid of failure. As Robert Kennedy said, “only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
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