Inspiring women in tech

Meet Kim Lonas, Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Lead, DCC Technology – a highly influential change agent dedicated to closing the gender gap in the ICT sector.

What steps is DCCT taking to increase female representation in leadership positions?
Our parent company DCC has four board members who are women. This is a powerful symbol of what women can aspire to achieve within the industry. It exemplifies the ‘see it to be it’ principle where young women and professionals can find role models who have broken through barriers. Our leadership development programmes prepare women for the next stage in their careers. This includes mentorship, Employee Resource Groups specifically for women, and we are launching a pilot programme for Women Returners. This initiative encourages women formerly in senior level roles and looking to re-enter the workforce. By providing a pathway for experienced women to return to senior positions we’re benefiting from their expertise and addressing the gender representation gap at the top.

What other initiatives do you participate in to help increase the presence of women on boards in the wider industry?
I’m actively involved in various women’s organisations and networks dedicated to promoting gender diversity within our sector. These groups provide valuable resources for womens’ advancement, including networking opportunities and advocacy efforts. I also engage in public speaking where I advocate for change in all dimensions of diversity; and write articles that offer thought leadership on various diversity topics. Through these efforts, I aim to drive awareness and action for greater diversity and inclusivity in leadership roles within our industry.

What more action needs to be taken to boost the number of women on boards?
Boosting the number of women on boards in the technology sector requires a multi-faceted approach to address the various barriers and challenges. For publicly traded companies in the UK there has been a growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity in corporate governance, not only in the technology sector but across various industries. In response, FTSE introduced an aim that all companies trading on FTSE have 40 per cent gender diversity on their boards. This requirement sends a clear message that achieving greater gender diversity at the highest levels of leadership is not just a nice to have, but a must have for modern businesses.

How can ambitious women influence their own ability to reach a board level position?
To influence their ability to reach a board level position ambitious women can consider various strategic steps. First and foremost I recommend exploring opportunities to join non-profit or community boards. These experiences provide valuable exposure to board level dynamics and allow you to contribute to causes that align with your values. Additionally, it’s crucial to build a diverse network both within and outside your industry. Participate in industry events, conferences and seminars and engage with peers and senior leaders. A well cultivated network can offer insights into potential opportunities and enhance your visibility in leadership circles.

Moreover, don’t hesitate to emphasise your achievements and contributions. Effectively communicate how your accomplishments have positively impacted your organisation’s success. Articulating your value and showcasing your track record of success is essential in positioning yourself as a viable candidate for any next level role.

In your experience, do leadership pipelines include enough women?
Leadership pipelines often need to include more women and other types of diverse candidates. The predominant reason for this underrepresentation is in industry demographics, particularly in sectors traditionally male dominated. Achieving greater gender diversity in leadership pipelines demands a combination of internal development efforts and an open minded approach to sourcing talent.

First, we must focus on developing the women already in the industry. Offering training, mentorship and leadership development programs can help women build the skills and confidence required for leadership positions. Ensuring women have equal access to growth opportunities within their current organisations is vital. Second, we should broaden our perspective by looking outside the industry for potential candidates. Women from diverse backgrounds may bring unique skills and perspectives that can enrich leadership teams. Recognising the value of transferable skills and actively considering candidates from various fields to expand the talent pool is essential.

Has the ICT sector made progress on increasing diversity at leadership level?
Like numerous other industries, the ICT sector has acknowledged the significance of enhancing diversity in senior leadership roles. It’s important to emphasise that progress can differ substantially based on the specific organisation and geographical region. According to the latest McKinsey report, a notable increase in women’s representation in the C-suite has reached the highest levels since 2015. Over this period, the presence of women in C-suite positions has risen from 17 to 28 per cent.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that advancement in the middle tiers of the career pipeline has been less rapid. There continues to be a consistent underrepresentation of Black and ethnically diverse leaders in these roles.

Given your global perspective, do you see differences in the levels of D&I between countries?
Diversity and inclusion levels can vary significantly between countries and regions. These differences are influenced by various factors, including historical, cultural, legal and social contexts. The historical treatment of marginalised groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals and women, differs from country to country and can lead to distinct challenges and priorities in different regions. The legal frameworks and regulations in place also influence D&I. For instance, the US and the UK have different reporting laws and regulations. These laws shape how organisations approach D&I and can again vary widely worldwide.

The demographic composition of a region and economic inequalities can also significantly influence D&I efforts. Some countries may be more open and accepting of diversity, while others may have deeply embedded biases. These cultural norms affect how D&I initiatives are received and the challenges they face. Regions with more diverse populations, industries, international businesses and global perspectives may prioritise D&I more strongly.

How can we stop one kind of ‘difference’ or diverse group being prioritised over another?
While companies increasingly highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion, a genuinely inclusive workplace goes beyond surface level commitments. Inclusion is more than just a one-size-fits-all concept, it’s a dynamic, multifaceted endeavour. For example, when a company genuinely values diversity and inclusion, it must recognise and support neurodiversity as a part of that commitment. This involves implementing strategies to accommodate and embrace employees with neurodiversity and various cognitive differences, fostering understanding and cultivating a supportive work culture where all employees, regardless of their neurodiversity, can thrive.

Ultimately, authentic inclusivity extends to encompass every facet of diversity, including gender, ethnicity, individuals with both physical and mental disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community and various other dimensions like age, socioeconomic background and cultural diversity. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it underscores the wider point.

How have your broader experiences shaped your overall outlook?
As a parent of two daughters, my experiences and current role have profoundly influenced me. They have strengthened my commitment to leaving a lasting legacy of a better, more inclusive world where everyone feels valued and appreciated for their unique contributions. My commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion has significantly shaped my career and aspirations, motivating me to be a driving force for change within the industry and beyond.

In the earlier stages of my professional journey we launched a programme to inspire college-aged women to consider our industry as a viable career option. Providing mentorship and guidance to the next generation is crucial for catalysing positive change. Encouraging young women to explore the opportunities within the ICT field empowers them and contributes to a more diverse and vibrant industry.

Share this story