Diversity and gender equality are increasingly spoken about in the Channel as areas that need improving, whether that’s having more women in leadership positions or incorporating new methods into the recruitment process that create a more diverse workforce. Yet for all the noise and rhetoric, there still requires more action across the industry when it comes to delivering real, impactful improvement.

Research by Canalys revealed that as many as 25% of Channel partners don’t see organisational diversity as a priority for their business. This is disappointing in the extreme, especially when social change must be at the forefront of society. Without a strategy in place that focuses on improving diversity and inclusion, businesses will struggle to attract top talent, fail to represent their customers, and ultimately get left behind. Further research by Gartner also suggests that a diverse workforce can improve performance by as much as 12%, which highlights the positive impact it has on business outcomes. So how can Channel organisations help improve diversity and inclusion across the industry?

It will take a concerted effort from all Channel businesses to enact real change. While this won’t happen overnight, even small steps from individual companies and their employees will help to sow the seeds of change. Here are some significant, but actionable ways for the Channel to improve diversity in their business and in turn, the sector as a whole.

Unconscious bias training

The responsibility lies with a business to drive dedicated and sustained actions that will encourage more women into IT and into senior positions, and this can’t be seen as just a tick-box exercise. A starting point for making this a reality is to eradicate any bias, as, although often done without conscious awareness, bias is one of the greatest contributors to a lack of diversity. Unconscious bias training can play an important part in this process and is a tangible way of creating a fairer, more inclusive workplace. It can help employees identify any pre-existing biases and better prevent these from interfering or playing a role in key business decisions made in the workplace. This will nurture an inclusive environment that treats people equally regardless of their culture, background or values.

Hiring diverse talent

Companies must demonstrate their commitment to unconscious bias at every stage of the employee lifecycle, starting with the hiring process. If businesses want to attract quality talent they must start taking diversity seriously. A Glassdoor survey indicated that three quarters of job seekers and employees believe that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. It’s important to temper first impressions and eliminate prejudice in order to select the right candidate who will positively impact the business and excel in the role. An example of this prejudice in action is judging a candidate based on their name, age or gender on their CV, before knowing their experience or qualifications.

Adopting a data-driven recruitment process is a great way of removing any such biases as it can help businesses look at candidate demographics to ensure they aren’t unwillingly discriminating against protected groups. Furthermore, Channel vendors or customers can use software to remove identifying information from CVs to avoid any judgements being made on a candidate. Eradicating pre-existing bias won’t solve the Channel sector’s gender divide on its own, but it is a fundamental step towards building a dynamic, modern and diverse industry.

Diversity objectives

Improving diversity and gender equality begins at the top. If companies in the Channel are serious about change then senior leaders must lead by example and build diversity targets into business objectives. All functions across a business have KPIs, so why should diversity be any different? Diversity objectives don’t have to just exist within overarching business strategy, they can also be built into the personal objectives of each and every employee. Changing the cultural identity of any business requires input from everyone. For instance, employees can take part in diversity approaches such as relevant bias training or sharing anonymous feedback eliciting any advice or concerns they may have on the issue.

Embrace new initiatives

Creating new initiatives around diversity and inclusion gives employees an outlet to champion and embrace it, encouraging change both within an organisation and in the wider Channel. For example, I am passionate about empowering women in the technology and Channel sectors, and I take an active role in Snowflake’s Diversity & Inclusion Council. Initiatives like this make it more accessible for employees to voice their ideas about how their business can become a more inclusive and diverse working environment, reflective of our Channel partners.

While businesses have an important role to play in creating a more equal workplace, they shouldn’t feel that they have to do it alone. There are plenty of outstanding charitable foundations and independent organisations that businesses can partner with to increase the support network for diversity and provide them with mentorship and training opportunities. One organisation Snowflake works with in the UK is Women in Data. With specialisms in fields relating to data science, the team does truly pioneering work to promote greater representation of women in data-led professions.

A diverse future

Whilst the channel industry has made progress when it comes to diversity and inclusion, there is still some way to go in order for the sector to be made up of truly diverse people. Tangible methods, such as unconscious bias training and diversity KPIs are great places to start. If channel vendors want to reflect their customers and embrace a wide spectrum of thought, then such changes must begin to take shape. Small steps made now will have a big impact on the channel industry in the future.

Iona Margareta Ion, Snowflake

Ioana Margareta Ion has been the Partner Manager of UK, Ireland & Israel at Snowflake since 2019. She has over 15 years of experience building and managing sales, channel and telecom teams, as well as developing creative business go-to-market strategies.

Visit Iona’s LinkedIn profile here