I was shocked to read that a well-known public speaker and moderator, Mads Christensen, made a number of inappropriate and insensitive remarks about women during a Dell-hosted customer and partner summit in Copenhagen in April. Since the remarks were made, which caused something of a growing firestorm on the Internet, Dell has issued a public apology on Google+ and re-confirmed itself as an “enthusiastic and committed advocate of women in business and IT”.
Dell is clearly embarrassed at the issue – “we will be more careful selecting speakers at Dell events” – and many people have expressed their shock that Dell would hire such a speaker in the first place; Christensen is known for his misogynistic comments after all. In 2009, Dell was criticised for a marketing campaign that gave the impression that the Dell honchos thought women used laptops mainly to keep track of how many calories they consumed and to find recipes online and the company also paid $9.1 million to settle a gender-bias lawsuit filed by two female former employees.
As a Gen Y female professional working in the IT sector, this story personally touched me. At Cisco, a leading networking company that has fewer female employees than the industry average, I am in the minority because I am female and because I am young. Was it not for working in a communications team that is made up of over 75% women, I would probably look around the office and feel surrounded by males, and I think this is one of the reasons why many young girls are not considering pursuing a career in technology.
I truly believe the technology industry holds a world of opportunities for inspiring young women and I think women have a great many skills that they can bring into the workforce. I don’t say this to imply that the opposite is true for men, but rather to argue that it’s the combination of the diverse skills that both men and female can bring that will drive innovation and best practices. Diversity makes us more successful as a company and it should be something that we all embrace every day.