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No equity in IT

No equity in IT

It says a lot about our society, and in particular the IT industry, that Hewlett-Packard's hiring of a woman - Carly Fiorina - as its new CEO and president created such a fuss.

If we had gender equity in the IT workplace then quite simply it wouldn't be a point of concern whether the new head honcho is male or female.

Indeed, Fiorina attempted to play down the gender angle when she said: "My gender is interesting but really not the subject of the story here."

However, gender was most definitely the subject of just about every article that appeared in newspapers and online news services the following day. In chorus, they trumpeted about how finally someone had broken through the IT glass ceiling.

There is no gender equity in IT. No wonder there is such a monumental skills shortage, when one half of the human race faces such a battle to break into and then succeed in the industry.

There is certainly not gender equity in the Australian channel. In our Facts & Figures pages in June we featured Inform research which found that women hold less than 10 per cent of senior management roles (June 9, page 80) and less than a quarter of sales management positions (June 16, page 70). Even in marketing, where women tend to dominate in many other industries, females hold less than 40 per cent of management positions (June 23, page 52).

Anecdotal evidence, too, has pointed to a significant bias in many integration companies and large resellers towards men. I've more than once had discussions with female channel sales executives who have said that they have been forced to quit because they perceived a distinct gender bias in their organisation.

I would go even further and suggest there is a class imbalance in the IT industry, too.

An interest in IT typically starts with a personal computer at home and of course it has only been the more affluent segments of our society that have, until recently, been able to afford a PC at home.

Everyone in the IT industry talks about how we are creating a brave new world, where the Internet tears down the walls and boundaries that have so far impeded equity - not just in business but in society in general. How ironic then, and indeed how sad, that it is the industry responsible for creating this new world that provides the perfect case study for both gender and class imbalance in the workplace.

The problem needs to be attacked at a number of levels. The government needs to do more to promote and teach IT in schools, particularly in disadvantaged areas and to girls.

But also computer companies and their managers need to do their part to help address the imbalance. I'm not for a second suggesting positive discrimination - as business managers you need to hire the best person for the job. But do keep this in mind: if you have two people that boast similar achievements and one is male and has qualifications from a top-notch private school while the other is female and was educated at a public school in the west, you can bet it's the latter who has had to work a lot harder, break through a lot more barriers and has demonstrated more intelligence and initiative.

I'll step down from my soapbox now, but before I do I'd like to mention that in late August we will be running a feature on women in the channel. Our features editor, Tamara Plakalo, would love to hear about the experiences of successful female managers in the channel. Drop her a line at tamara_plakalo@idg.com.auPhilip Sim is editor-in-chief of Australian Reseller News. Reach him at philip_sim@idg.com.au


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