Happy International Women's Day from everyone here at Softcat! Every year I see more interest in IWD and it's great to be celebrating my first one with Softcat this year.
The 2018 theme for International Women's Day was #PressforProgress, chosen due to the alarming statistic that gender parity is still at least 200 years away according to the World Economic Forum. They break gender parity down into several areas including economic participation and opportunity. We want to play our part at Softcat to ensure that there are as many opportunities for our female employees as there are for our male colleagues. With that in mind, we're igniting our networking group 'Softcat Women in Business', with the objective of supporting our female employees to make the most of the opportunities they have at work. The group will be leading several initiatives, including hearing from inspirational external people that have supported women's progress in the world of work, and instigating a buddy scheme for female employees.
For our first event, held yesterday morning at Softcat's London offices, we heard from Gillian Crewdson at Mimecast in a Q&A hosted by our MD, Colin Brown. We invited a group of employees to listen to her views on Mimecast and Softcat, while also offering some insight into her own career. It was fascinating to hear how similar Softcat and Mimecast's journeys have been. As Gillian said, the two companies have "grown together" and we remain their biggest partner globally. When she joined the company ten years ago, she was employee number 63, and they now have 1200 employees working across all their international offices. She highlighted the similarities in terms of culture, growth ambition and passion for exceptional customer service.
Gillian talked to us about how her placement year, whilst studying for a degree in Business, sparked her passion for working in the IT industry, a passion that remains to this day. After university, she spent four years at Surf Control and joined Mimecast in 2008 in a channel marketing role. She helped build the channel business from scratch and has recently taken on her current role as Sales Director, sitting on the UK Leadership team. Gillian even credited our very own CEO, Martin Hellawell, for having given her some invaluable career advice and confidence during her transition from Marketing into Sales.
We asked Gillian what career advice she could give all our employees, regardless of gender, and she shared some great tips. Firstly, we should all look for, and welcome, change rather than letting it hold us back. It's imperative to take feedback constructively and take pride in what we do, making sure that we have a voice and our colleagues know what we're working on. She also encouraged us not to limit ourselves to one career path, having started in marketing and then moved into sales herself.
Talking about the difference between taking a management career path or being an individual contributor, she reminded us that management isn't the only option for career development and for some people it won't be the right one because it requires a completely different skill-set. I particularly liked the way she summed it up by saying that management is the right career path if you love people and you think the company is more important than you. She also shared her realisation that as you move into management and leadership roles, you simply can't know everything – you must ask for help and surround yourself with talented people.
Gillian doesn't feel that her career path has been affected by her gender and she is a firm believer that being a woman in the IT industry hasn't held her back. Early in her career, she summoned up the bravery to ask the former Mimecast COO to mentor her and credits her progress to some supportive and inspirational individuals. Mimecast is also facing comparable challenges to Softcat with a similar overall gender split; around 30%, except for the leadership team where they have a really positive, 40% female representation. Although both companies are doing better than the IT industry overall (17% females), we believe we can improve on this.
Thanks to Gillian for taking the time to talk to us today and hopefully our group of volunteers will be able to start tackling some of these challenges for Softcat, using this morning's session as a springboard for improvements to our gender diversity. If you think you'd like to be part of the team, please visit our careers page to see how you could contribute.
We would love to hear any comments you have about this article!