Diversity in organisations must evolve along with technology

Diversity in organisations must evolve along with technology

To celebrate the launch of Women in ICT Asia in Singapore, Channel Asia profiles the leading female technology leaders across the region

Vicki Batka (Cisco)

Vicki Batka (Cisco)

Credit: Cisco

In my more-than thirty-year plus career in IT, I’ve experienced many ups and downs in our industry.

From the initial rise of IT in business, followed by the dotcom bubble bust at the turn of the new millennium, to the evolution of IT in becoming a true business enabler for companies big and small.

As many of you know, the channel was a key driver of that growth and evolution.

Over the years, vendors like Cisco, have also had to transform their strategy as the role of technology continued to rapidly change.

This transformation needed new skillsets and diverse perspectives which led to the hiring of more females in the channel - many of whom have been a part in strategically shaping our industry.

A study by McKinsey highlighted that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Diversity and inclusion, without a doubt, is a key business differentiator and I have seen so much debate and development in this area over the last few decades. From discussion around government-mandated diversity targets to the concept of paying it forward, by leaning in.

Many discussions have taken place at a board-level and driven down through executive leadership teams, contributing to how women in the industry supported one another, more than ever.

In fact, speak to any woman in information and communications technology (ICT) and they will often tell you they have been mentored by – or have mentored – other women along their way. This is what makes this community so unique and why this is probably one of the best times to be in ICT.

At Cisco, we created a community amongst students called Women Rock IT - a way to share monthly updates on how technology is evolving and making an impact on our society.

With over 5000 participants across Asia each month, it is just one small way we can affect theses students and spark some interest for them to be inspired to make a real impact in our community.

Take ePlus for example, a partner of Cisco that has together with Cisco, co-founded Girls Re-Imagining Tomorrow or GRIT, a program that encourages middle school girls to stay involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through school and beyond the classroom.

What makes this program unique is that the girls in the program spend five months learning about different tech jobs, especially the ones that go beyond just coding.

This program could possibly be responsible for the next channel rockstar and it also makes me very proud that our partner ecosystem cares about the next generation of talent as much as we do.

Programs such as GRIT are extremely important to the industry as they contribute and ensure there is a sustainable pipeline of talent to grow our industry and, hopefully, can also provide a way to give back to the society, through technology.

Here’s another example why: IDC predicts that Asia Pacific ICT spending, including new technologies will reach US$1.5 trillion by 2021, this data is based on research from the latest IDC Worldwide Black Book.

What is really interesting about this, is that driving this growth are innovation accelerators such as 3D printing, augmented reality (AR)/ virtual reality (VR), cognitive artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, and security which will grow at 16.6 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) or at a faster pace than four pillar technologies like big data and analytics, cloud, mobility, and social, which is projected to grow at 5.2 per cent CAGR.

This increase in ICT spending, according to a recent OECD report, presents a potential to allow women to take advantage of “leapfrogging” opportunities, meaning a level playing field between males and females - a way to help bridge the current gender divide, by giving women the possibility to earn income, increase employment opportunities and access knowledge. This could possibly open new total addressable markets for us.

I urge everyone in the industry, both men and women, to rise to the occasion and champion diversity and inclusion.

It has never been a more important time for us to stand united in the face of challenges, as the industry and technology continues to evolve and we look out for the next generation of inspired talent to come.

Vicki Batka is vice president of Partner Organisation across Asia Pacific and Japan at Cisco

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