Dancing on the glass ceiling

Despite many women in the Canadian IT channel say that they’ve rarely, if ever, faced a “glass ceiling,” in their careers, driving women into the field is still proving difficult and that’s something the entire industry needs to work on changing.

That was the message delivered at CDN‘s first-ever Women in the IT Channel Solution Providers Luncheon held in Toronto yesterday to bring together exceptional women in the channel. CDN also honoured 25 women from solution providers around the country.

Read more: Women who are setting a new bar for the IT channel

“I danced on that glass ceiling, I didn’t break through it,” said Tiffani Bova, an analyst with Gartner Inc., during her keynote speech. “I was raised in a community where I was the minority,” Bova said. She was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she said she stood out.

But in the IT industry, standing out has never been a bad thing for her, nor for many of the other women who attended the event. Rather, Bova now calls herself an “accidental mentor,” since she fell into her career in IT, as did many women in the solution provider community.

Related videos: Women in the IT Channel Luncheon

Mentors along the way, including men, have been critical to her success, she said, a sentiment echoed during the event’s panel discussion on driving more young women into technology careers.

“I grew up thinking that women could be presidents,” said Rose MacKinnon, senior director of retail sales for Ingram Micro Canada and one of the panellists. “Having role models is really, really important.”

According to CATAAlliance, Canada’s IT skills shortage is over 50,000 workers. Some industry professionals argue that recruiting more women into the industry is one way to combat that. It’s not just about getting women to like math, though. Young women need to be aware of the career options they have within IT as well, according to the panellists and audience members.

Bova asked the audience of more than 100 people how many do math and science on a regular basis in their jobs- only a few hands went up. Marketing and sales, however, showed a much larger response, illustrating Bova’s point that more math and science isn’t necessarily the way to draw more women in.

Read more: Breaking into the glass house

It is a chicken and egg problem, though, according to MacKinnon’s fellow panellist Catherine O’Donnell, director of channel sales for distribution and DRC at HP Canada. “Once we attract women, we have to show them that there is an environment in IT where they will be set up to be successful,” O’Donnell said.

“This is an industry that promotes working remotely,” she pointed out. Aspects like that- promoting work-life balance- are crucial for bringing more young women into the industry. “Build an action plan that’s relevant in your company,” added Lora Gernon, president of Profit Consulting and a former Microsoft Canada channel chief, which could include formal mentorship or work-from-home policies. “It has to start with the industry itself.”

Overall, Canada’s IT worker shortage will have to be addressed by encouraging both genders to join the field and promoting the wide range of career choices, according to many of the audience members, but more work needs to be done. As Bova joked to the audience, “If I had the answer, I’d sell it.”

Follow Harmeet on Twitter @HarmeetCDN

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Harmeet Singh
Harmeet Singh
Harmeet reports on channel partner programs, new technologies and products and other issues relevant to Canada's channel community. She also contributes as a video journalist, providing content for the site's original streaming video. Harmeet is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism.

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