Lip service and mere cultural mood music will do nothing to advance the spread of greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the channel. What we need are real world examples of inspirational D&I champions. Enter Gamma’s Chief People Officer Suzie Woodhams...
Comms Dealer always seeks to champion shining examples that reveal the real human and business benefits of greater equality, diversity and inclusion in business and beyond. Why? Because industry research and discussion alone will not solve the channel’s diversity and inclusion deficit. It needs a real-world leadership and cultural stimulus, and Gamma has ingrained this prerequisite into its very identity...
How is Gamma’s diversity and inclusion culture reflected in strategy?
Having a diverse and inclusive culture not only fits with who we are and want to be as a company, but also matches our set of values which encourage employees to aim high, consider others, think differently and be stronger together. These are key components of our 2020-2023 People Plan, and we are working hard on our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) strategy. We have also been working for some time on reducing gender disparity as part of our work on the gender pay gap. Early last year we established our new Learning & Organisational Development Team and we are currently hiring a Learning & Organisational Development Manager who will bring new insights and skills specifically on this topic.
How does Gamma’s leadership structure drive diversity and inclusion in the business?
Our Board has taken huge steps to promote D&I within the leadership structure. Over the years we have moved from having an all male Board to having two women Non-Executive Directors. Moreover, we recognise the importance of having a more diverse and inclusive leadership team in order to lead by example from the top down, and we are working on this as part of our ED&I plan.
Why must success models in the channel change and how are you redefining the long-established male orientated success role model in the ICT sector?
A more diverse and inclusive success model in the channel would surely benefit the whole industry. The channel has traditionally been regarded as something of a boys club, and while we see more examples of women breaking through in this environment there is still a long way to go. Diversity is a strength, and as such, it should be encouraged and supported in all businesses. Enabling people of all genders, ethnicities and disabilities to access the same opportunities for personal and professional growth is fundamental to show that success is not only achievable by one category of individuals, but by all. The first step is to get women interested in this sector and to show that this is an industry they can thrive in just as much as men. Our female employees often have the chance to speak at our roadshows and events, and they have done an amazing job at that. It’s something we are keen to continue promoting and supporting as part of our strategy.
How does Gamma encourage young people from all backgrounds to consider technology as a career?
Gamma has been working with the Education Business Partnership for over a year as part of our Hi-Tech Horizons initiative. The programme helps to raise awareness of the hi-tech sector and the opportunities within it in a way that is understandable to young people, influences their career choices and helps them develop important, relevant work-related skills. As part of the initiative we have visited schools in the Reading area and met up with Year 8 students to help inspire them to think about working in a high-tech organisation like Gamma.
We break the students into smaller groups and run an exercise aimed at challenging their ability to put a basic process together, while working in a group of peers that they may not be familiar with. Some of the key challenges were around communication and team working skills. The students were able to identify that the team with the best results worked more collaboratively and were stronger together. It also helped to demonstrate the technical and non-technical skills that are required to work in most organisations.
What were the main challenges you encountered while working with students?
This wasn’t only challenging for the students, it also posed some challenges for the volunteers from Gamma as every group was different. We had to find creative ways to ensure everyone was included. Some were vocal, at times distracting, and we had to find ways of keeping the group focused. For other groups, we needed to motivate them more to get involved and to think differently about their approach and set higher goals. The feedback from students showed how we opened their eyes to the power of inclusion, leadership potential and teamwork. Our key challenge this year is being able to run this session remotely, which will (if all goes well) allow us to reach more students over a shorter timeframe. We are also going to run sessions with Year 10s.
How have your recruitment policies changed and in what ways are you recruiting for a more diverse workforce?
Our job descriptions and adverts contain gender-neutral language and we promote balanced shortlists and diverse interview panels where possible. We have also had the opportunity to host professor Professor Haifa Takruri-Rizk from the University of Salford to speak with recruiters in our Manchester office about her 20-plus years research. She provided our teams with valuable tips and guidance on recruitment which they were able to implement in their day-to-day job.
How do you leverage technology to drive greater diversity and inclusion in your business?
Our own technology and solutions, such as Collaborate, can help us drive greater D&I by allowing employees to work from any location that suits them best. Having remote working tools widens our talent pool while also opening the door for people with disabilities that might not be able to work from an office. Remote working solutions also facilitate a greater work-life balance for all those women who might need it to look after their children or loved one. Of course, technology is only one part of the equation. But collaboration and communication solutions are at the core of what we do and we’ve been leveraging those for some time to provide a positive, as well as a diverse, working environment.
What first moves enabled you to stride out on your diversity and inclusion journey?
The most important aspect of driving diversity and inclusion in a business is a commitment from the top. We have a supportive leadership team who understand the importance of D&I and supports our initiatives to enhance it.
Over the years we have also adopted more creative and different approaches to diversity and inclusion. Women are obviously less represented in the technology sector, particularly in leadership roles. We wanted to think about and address this issue differently, so we trialled a novel forum theatre style of coaching in our Leadership Presence for Women programme. This involved the use of actors as well as group coaching.
As a result of this approach we have seen a real difference to participant’s personal growth, with some going on to achieve senior roles, including a director position. This can be a great way for businesses to start their D&I journey.
What diversity and inclusion means to me...
Sara Sheikh, Product Manager, Gamma
I have been in many meetings where I was the only person of colour and female. It is a symptom of decades of social behaviour, yet this has never intimidated me or held me back. I wish I could put it down to my strength, but the truth is I have never had to.
I work in an environment where my different perspective is considered a strength. It has never crossed my mind that my opinion would be less valued than another. The fact is, we are not all the same – we are in large part a product of our backgrounds – and my priorities are very different to the people around me. That is also true of our customer base. And in an age where the customer’s voice is stronger than ever, a failure to represent that diversity in your teams is at the very least business suicide. Things are changing in the communications industry, but it will take time.