Networking and mentoring group, Women in Leadership and Technology (WIL&T), a division of non-profit organization, International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP), held its first Canadian meet and mingle event for women on Monday at Microsoft Canada’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) head office in Mississauga, Ont.
The event, sponsored by the IAMCP, Microsoft Canada and Burlington, Ont.-based Mercer-MacKay Solutions Inc., a company that provides sales and marketing services to better help Microsoft partners increase their profitability, brought together over 60 attendees from various IT organizations. Each attendee’s role ranged from vice-president of sales and marketing, to consultant, to president, to training and program mangers and more.
During her keynote speech at the event, Jacqueline Hutchinson, chair of WIL&T, outlined reasons to join the organization, citing networking and relationship building as key drivers. She explains the IAMCP is an organization with chapters and members located across the globe. The organization is a way for Microsoft partners to have a voice into Microsoft partner programs and into the IT community at large. In order to become a member of the group though, she says companies must be at the very least, a Microsoft partner at the entry level and/or registered with Microsoft. Once partners become a member with the IAMCP, they automatically become a part of WIL&T too, she adds.
“WIL&T is an opportunity for women to get together to share successes and experiences with others,” she said. “The goal of the organization is to make it easier for women to find and retain jobs in IT by nurturing and providing support to each other.”
Gail Mercer-MacKay, president of Mercer-MacKay Solutions and also the incoming chair for the WIL&T group effective this June, said those who join IAMCP, at a regular membership price of $195 each year, will get their membership “back in spades” within the first 12 months.
Through the group and IAMCP, members also receive discounts on Microsoft training programs, insurance and other services, access to networking events, resources, and more to help improve and boost partner profitability.
“I’ve always been passionate about women mentoring each other because we share a common ground,” Mercer-MacKay said. “Sometimes, women face different challenges than our male colleagues and this is a way for them to come together as a group. I’d like to see this group grow to anywhere between 200 and 300 members across Canada.”
Barb Cummings, director of business development at Guelph, Ont.-based Brodie Computes, a consulting and customer relationship management solution provider and also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, said her company is not currently a member of IAMCP and WIL&T. However, she says that after attending Monday’s event, her company will probably sign up soon.
“I saw two real directions for the WIL&T organization,” Cummings said. “The first being where we can network, have fun and learn things amongst ourselves, and the second being where we, as a group, could approach and mentor young people to get them (interested in joining the) technology industry. I see that the amount of people going into technology has dropped off and I think that’s because a lot of young people don’t really understand what the industry has to offer. Maybe we could change that (ideology) because technology’s not going away.”
Lora Gernon, senior director of Microsoft Canada’s partner group, said attracting and retaining top talent in the IT industry is key, even more now, than ever before.
Gernon cited information from the European Commission: Women in Science and Technology, The Business Perspective from 2006, stating that women represent less than 26 per cent of the total workforce. She also quoted that only two-thirds of women who have a strong math and/or sciences track record actually move beyond high school to study in that field.
“Women are avoiding IT because of things like stereotyping … the work/life balance, the environment being ‘too male,’ or because they think there’s a lack (in potential) for career progression,” Gernon explained. “Women need to realize there are advantages of gender diversity such as great expertise, practical experience and a high level of motivation. As women, we have to push the work/life balance and follow what (we) love, because when you love something, you can overcome any obstacle that may come in your way.”
In addition to receiving membership benefits from IAMCP, Gernon says partners can also take advantage of Microsoft’s partner community support services such as demand generation campaigns, spiffs, rebates, sales engagements, training, toolkits and so forth.
“I encourage our partners to take advantage of all that Microsoft has to offer because we’re a supporter of the IAMCP and the WIL&T division within it.”