ITAC Online - Diversity Issue - June 2012
In ITAliCs

Gender Diversity - What’s next?

Last June the ITAC Board of Directors achieved a goal it set for itself in 2009. At that point our 35 person board had exactly one woman on it (our current vice-chair, Jen Evans). It set a target of 30% female board composition by 2011. As of this writing we are currently at 37%. This is a testament to the fact that if you want to change something in an organization you can do it by setting a measurable target and persistently reporting on progress.

Our success with the ITAC board has sharpened our appetite for other tougher targets – like moving the current level of female engagement in our industry from where it currently sits at 25% to 30%. As Lloyd Bryant explains in one of the stories in this issue, the Diversity Advisory Group has broken this task into four parts. One of these areas of focus is women on boards. The topic is timely. Some jurisdictions in Europe, exasperated by the slow pace of change that business has exhibited, have mandated specific quotas. Canada is taking a more temperate view. The Federal Government Budget announced the creation of an advisory council of leaders from the private and public sectors to promote the participation of women on corporate boards.

In a move to accelerate the slow pace of change in Canada, Catalyst announced in March the Catalyst Accord (for more information about this initiative, go to www.catalyst.org ). This is a public commitment to increase the overall proportion of FP 500 board seats held by women to 25% by 2017.  Early signatories are RBC, Linamar, KPMG, Talisman Energy and from the tech community, MTS Allstream. Commitments like this are important. They signal a clear undertaking to voluntarily change.

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Moving to 30 Per Cent

Lloyd Bryant, VP and General Manager - Printing and Personal systems (PPS), Hewlett Packard Canada Lloyd Bryant, VP and General Manager - Printing and Personal systems (PPS), Hewlett Packard Canada

Last June the Board of Directors of ITAC passed a motion to make changing the level of engagement of women in our industry from 25% to 30% a priority of the association. This came as the board completed its project to change its own composition from one female director in 2009 to eleven in 2011. A key driver in achieving this objective was the creation of ITAC’s Diversity Advisory Group which conducts programs and research and exchanges best practices in diversity. Lloyd Bryant, Vice President and General Manager - Printing and Personal Systems (PPS) at Hewlett-Packard Canada, became the chair of this group in 2011 taking over from Jim Muzyka (past chair) and with the passionate engagement of the working group set out a plan to make the drive to 30% a reality. This group - now composed of representatives from over 20 companies - has divided the task into four areas of focus:

  • inspiring more women to pursue technology-related education and careers,
  • encouraging stronger success and advancement of women in management,
  • improving the engagement of women on the boards in Canada, and
  • supporting women entrepreneurs in ICT

“I really believe the long-term success of the ICT industry in Canada is based on driving innovation and the lifeblood of innovation is talented, diverse people. There is a significant amount of compelling evidence today which shows that the best innovation outcomes are produced by the most diverse teams of talented people.” Additionally Lloyd believes that our industry is uniquely positioned to better leverage one of the worlds most educated and diverse workforces. “As supply and value chains become increasingly global, our workforce reflects the world’s population and this should be a unique competitive advantage for us.”

Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co. (HP Canada) has been quick in recognizing this and has made some significant strides in addressing diversity within its workplace. Recently it was chosen as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers for 2012. This choice is backed up by the numbers at HP Canada:

  • Percentage of employees who are women: 36%
  • 32.5%.of the managers are women
  • Visible minorities comprise 13% of the employees and 8% of the managers

Furthermore, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co (HP Co.) is a woman – none other than Meg Whitman of eBay fame – and 27% of its Board is female which is well above the Fortune 500 average.

In terms of what still needs to be done to further diversity across the ICT industry, Lloyd views what ITAC has done in terms of increasing gender diversity as being a model that others can use.

“Passionate and energized men and women within ITAC have spent a lot of time thinking of how to move the needle forward in a significant way. ITAC’s board’s own experience in changing its composition to over 30% female in the space of two years is proof of what can happen when this thinking is applied.”

According to Lloyd, the ICT industry can set itself up for future success in gender diversity, for example, by creating an environment where:

  1. Women feel that they are contributing and can be successful
  2. There are diversity role models in leadership
  3. Female employees can balance the demands of home and work.

The potential of making a difference on the bottom line and having a competitive edge by having a more diverse workforce is growing. As a result, moving to 30% is an important first step towards creating the diverse workforce of tomorrow. Looking at the future, Lloyd views the focus on coming up with applications for influencing the pipeline from the school level up as paramount.

“To ensure that the diverse workforce that we need in the long-term is going to be there, we need to excite and motivate school children to look at IT as a career that is not only for engineers or boys. We have to prime the pump in order to achieve our goals for diversity, especially gender diversity, because our business depends upon having a sustainable talent pool. We will only be successful if this is done with the commitment and support of our entire industry.”

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IBMer’s Make IBM CWC’s Employer of the Year

Sharon O, Shaughnessy, Senior Manager, Service Delivery Management, IBM Canada Sharon O, Shaughnessy, Senior Manager, Service Delivery Management, IBM Canada

In April IBM Canada was named Employer of the Year by the Canadian Women in Communications (CWC). This is the result of not only committed leadership in the company but also the energies and commitment of many of its dedicated employees. Sharon O'Shaughnessy has been active in IBM’s Women’s Networking Group and other initiatives for over 10 years. She also contributes her insight (see below) and support to ITAC’s Diversity Advisory Group:

Tell me about your perspective on diversity, in particular gender diversity, and why it is important?

I think many people will start by telling you that diversity is a business imperative. There certainly are more than a few studies available demonstrating that having women at all levels of leadership in an organization contributes to the bottom line. From a business perspective it's the right thing to do. I believe that to be true, but that's not necessarily what I was thinking when I first became active as an advocate for women more than 12 years ago.

At first it was all about equal opportunity. It was only after I became more engaged with IBM's Canadian Women's Leadership Council (CWLC) that I realized it was more than just equal opportunity. Through the CWLC at IBM, I learned diversity is about removing barriers to ensure that every individual is provided the opportunity to succeed in reaching their personal and professional goals. I also discovered that diversity helped our teams and business units to be more effective as having different perspectives at the table translates into real business value.

IBM has a long history of commitment to diversity and took the lead on diversity policies long before it was required by law. Today one of IBM’s seven global diversity imperatives is the advancement of women and it shows as IBM Canada was recently named “Employer of the Year – Outstanding Overall Gender Diversity Performance” by the Canadian Women in Communications (CWC). Some of the successes cited by the CWC include:

  • The creation of the IBM Women’s Executive Councils and IBM’s Women in Technology chapters
  • Reaching out and encouraging girls in middle school to pursue technology careers
  • Since 2006 women have made up more than 30% of its workforce and today 48% of its senior management are women – up from 37% in 2007

I can honestly say that my perspective of diversity has changed a lot over time- thanks to the opportunities that I have had to learn along my own personal diversity continuum as an IBMer. My perspective continues to evolve just as IBM continues to evolve its diversity initiatives. None of us are standing still and that's something to be proud of.

What in your experience are the benefits of greater diversity for employees, for companies and organizations?
I think I spoke to some of this already before. There are studies that clearly link the business value of having women in leadership roles at all levels in an organization. For instance, it has found that companies with more women at senior levels and on boards of directors achieve higher returns.

At IBM, we acknowledge, value and respect diversity because it has benefitted the organization and it’s the right thing to do. It is an integral part of IBM’s success as a leader in innovation as it allows us to attract the best and brightest employees and uncover new business opportunities that are fundamental to our competitive success.

On a personal level, I think diversity is about having the right number of women, the right number of men with the right knowledge and experience at the table to determine the best course of action for the business problem at hand no matter what level within the organization.

What is needed to tackle the challenge of greater diversity in the ICT industry going forward? How can it become a leader in this area?        
We need to continue to focus on our pipeline of talent. It is difficult to achieve the level of diversity we are striving to attain when we are not graduating women at the rate and pace needed to fill ICT, engineering and technical roles. We have many outreach initiatives at IBM - IBM's EXCITE Camp, Women in Technology and Destination ImagiNation - that help bring these subjects to the schools. We need to continue to do this work early on to build the pipeline that feeds us the people we need. IBM is also reaching out beyond its own walls through the ITAC and CWC Diversity Partnership for example.

Beyond that, we also need to engage and retain the women we do have by ensuring they see a culture where their contribution is valued and have a workplace that allows women and men to alike can succeed. Keep in mind that being an advocate of gender diversity does not mean being exclusive or “no men”.  It means getting the right balance and the right skills/experience working together.

To sum up, I would say that partnership on diversity and inclusion on all levels - gender, ethnicity, inter-generational, LGBT etc. - is to me the ultimate goal in business in life.  And what a goal it is!

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Women: The Untapped ICT Talent Source

Stephanie MacKendrick, President, Canadian Women in Communications (CWC) Stephanie MacKendrick, President, Canadian Women in Communications (CWC)

Stephanie MacKendrick has worked in the communications industry for almost three decades - ten years of which as President of Canadian Women in Communications (CWC). Known internationally for her work to promote women’s involvement on corporate boards, she was named one of WXN’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2005.

The CWC is ITAC’s partner in providing professional development services for women. Stephanie and her team also participate actively in ITAC’s Diversity Advisory Group.

Tell me about your perspective on diversity, in particular gender diversity, and why it is important?
Diversity is important because it provides different perspectives on all aspects of business and contributes to business success.

In the ICT industry, especially, diversity is vital because of the talent crunch it faces. This, in turn, makes increasing the attraction and retention of diverse talent primary for business success.

Women are still a relatively untapped pool of talent. There are a number of reasons for this ranging from misperceptions held by women - for example, to be in ICT you need to be an engineer - to an underestimation of relevant skills to work/life imbalances.

Attracting more women to a career in ICT is important but retaining them may be even more so. Retention is a matter where success attracts more success: the more women you have in your organization, the better your chances of attracting more women. When done correctly, retention can become a robust virtuous circle which benefits women and the companies and organizations concerned.

Ultimately though, diversity is key because Canadian businesses cannot afford to leave any skilled talent underutilized.

What in your experience are the benefits of greater diversity for employees, for companies and organizations?
There are a number of benefits especially in terms of attracting talent. People like to join or support companies and organizations that are populated by people like them.

Having greater diversity can also significantly reinforce a business’s marketing and sales efforts. For example, it can improve your chances of succeeding in taking your product or service to market as it can potentially attract a broader segment of the general population.

Another important benefit of diversity is avoiding group think. In recent times we have experienced a sea change in business structure as we have moved from command and control to a flat hierarchy. This type of hierarchy promotes direct contact between frontline employees and those in managerial positions and enables a greater and more candid exchange of ideas, with everyone given the opportunity to have an input on business decisions. To be successful and avoid group think you need diverse people with different types of skills, expertise and knowledge bases.

What is needed to tackle the challenge of greater diversity in the ICT industry going forward? How can it become a leader in this area?  
Much has changed in this important area. There is definitely more open discussion about diversity: for instance, the recent issue with Facebook having no women on its board. We would not have had this discussion as recently as ten years ago.

However more work needs to be done. There has to be a collective decision to really make a difference in terms of diversity.

ITAC’s own experience in changing its composition of its board to over 30 per cent female in the space of two years is a text book case. ITAC identified which aspect of diversity it would tackle first, made a decision to commit itself to realize its set goal in this aspect, and set up a structure that would be responsible to achieve this. The benefits of doing this included a re-energized discussion (and focus) on diversity and adding a lot to the board in terms of effectiveness.

The industry also needs to become less uncomfortable with quotas. Quotas should be viewed as part of a business plan rather than a filling of slots.

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ITAC Events

June 20, 2012

2012 ITAC Annual General Meeting of Members

June 20, 2012

ITAC Board of Governors Dinner

June 21, 2012

High Tech Think Tank at SAP

June 27, 2012

ITAC Digital Commerce Forum: Going Social - Building Online Communities that Boost Your ROI

October 22 - October 24, 2012

WCIT 2012 Montréal - The New ICT-Driven Society


For a full list of events, and to register for ITAC events, visit itac.ca

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