International Women's Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance. This is specifically the case this year where the campaign focuses on balance driving a better working world, with the campaign strapline #Balanceforbetter. This campaign theme provides a unified direction to reinforce the message of gender balance throughout the year, which is essential for economies and communities to thrive, so we all have a part to play!
At Softcat, we are playing our part in ensuring that we continuously give our female employees as much opportunity as our male employees. The ‘Supporting Women in Business’ group have been working on a number of initiatives since IWD last year to see where we can help our female employees grow in confidence, how we can attract and retain female talent, whilst also ensuring we have a culture that we can be proud of, for females to flourish.
As part of these initiatives, today we launched our mentoring program to support our internal female talent – an incredible 60 managers, both male and female, put their names forward to join the programme. We also used the day as an opportunity to celebrate our internal female talent, by sharing their stories and achievements to highlight the steps they have taken to progress their careers, in an effort to advise and inspire those who follow.
Sarah Shields and Dell EMC
We have had several industry leading female guest speakers in over the year to help inspire our employees in understanding how to own their career, and progress to senior roles.
This morning we were honoured to host Sarah Shields, Vice President of Dell EMC Europe, as a guest speaker at our London office. The Q&A session was hosted by our CEO, Graeme Watt and myself, as Head of Talent, engagement and diversity. We invited all employees to listen to her views on career development, the importance of diversity at Dell EMC and how she balances work and home life.
How has Sarah’s career progressed?
Sarah spoke about how she changed her behaviour and attitude during her school years when she realised she was a bright girl who wasn’t succeeding academically. She then went on to do pretty well in her A levels, and followed this by attending Bournemouth University, studying Marketing.
After University Sarah worked for a PR agency and enjoyed the role but envisioned herself performing better in a Sales role, so started her career in tech at AMD. From there she went to work for Acer, followed by Gateway, to then join Dell EMC in 2008 to help launch the Retail business.
She is now VP of Dell EMC's Enterprise Channel, running a £3bn organisation. Sarah confesses she’s not a ‘techie,’ but neither that, nor being female, has stopped her from developing her career. In fact, though not in the know about how technology works, Sarah spoke about having a passion for what technology can do, along with being a smart and unique person, which has contributed to her success.
Diversity in IT
Sarah talked passionately about the IT channel and how fun, interesting and dynamic it is to be a part of. It doesn’t matter about your ethnicity, sexual orientation, education or age, embracing diversity is about being different. Our customers are diverse and if we aren’t also diverse, we can’t have the right conversations or connect in the same way,
Networking is so important in helping build a career so think about what makes you interesting. Sarah has treated every interaction like a mini interview, always being her best self. As a natural extrovert, it has really helped her build and maintain a network – which she recommends as a way to drive yourself forward in any organisation. Sarah has never felt that being a woman has negatively impacted her in her career, and working hard has always helped her achieve her next role.
Sarah also spoke about feedback being the ‘food of the soul’ and that it is important to understand your blind spots. Coaching for her has been a game changer, it’s helped her work through feedback, and understand where she is unconsciously less skilled.
Being a working mum
Sarah has two young boys; 7 and 9 years old, who clearly keep her on her toes. Her top tips were to set rules and to have a good support network around you. She is always there when her children wake up and feels that flexible working at Dell EMC enables her to be a Mum, whilst also carrying a senior level role that she loves. Childcare is shared with her husband and not reliant on either one of them; it’s a partnership.
Women in Tech
We're also showing our support to Women in the Channel with our campaign. As part of this, you can watch our new video where you'll hear from some our female employees who describe what it's like to work in the industry, how the industry is improving to close the gap on gender disparity, and the work that still needs to be done to get closer to acheiving equality.
Thanks to Sarah Shields for taking the time to talk to us today and being so honest, engaging and entertaining! I’m really looking forward to seeing how our ‘Supporting Women in Business’ network can continue to improve our gender diversity at Softcat.
If you think you'd like to be part of the Softcat team, please visit our careers page to see how you could contribute.