I love technology, the channel industry and Cisco partners. But there’s a long-neglected obstacle that risks impacting our collective growth. Can you guess what that is?
Left unaddressed, this obstacle reduces the creativity, ingenuity and curiosity that has made working in the channel and IT industry so rewarding. It is subtle, but obvious. An addressable barrier that is simple to see yet filled with complexity. It is something I passionately believe – both personally and professionally – we must tackle.
What will make this industry thrive, grow, evolve and stay relevant is our ability to attract and nurture a community that is truly as diverse as the markets, customers and technologies we represent. I’m referring to our collective diversity. Diversity in our background, age, experience, gender identity, race, and much more.
This hit home recently with CRN’s Top 50 Influential Channel Chiefs. While I’m honored and proud to be included amongst such a strong group of leaders, I couldn’t help but notice that we reflect an industry that, I’m sad to say, doesn’t appear to be very diverse. Moreover, if you agree with my logic, we represent an industry that may not be growing, evolving, and staying relevant to its full potential. The overwhelming majority of the members on the CRN list are White men. So I ask you, do we accurately represent the mix of ethnicities, races and genders that should make up a thriving industry?
Each of these leaders play a valuable role in moving our industry forward. I commend all of them. But I think it’s time everyone who cares about our industry’s future – and who cares about creating equal opportunities for all – to pay closer attention to the value of diversity and representation and, more importantly, put real actions in place that create a better balance.
I’m grateful to work for a company like Cisco whose purpose is to Power an Inclusive Future for All. Starting with our CEO Chuck Robbins, this goal manifests itself in both our innovations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions, including a Social Justice Action Office that has identified 12 actions of impact for how we respond to injustice andaddress inequity for any community. One of these represents a $50M commitment to increase the diversity in our partner ecosystem. Read more about this in Jason W. Gallo’s blog and learn the specific actions we are taking to increase the number of African-American/Black-owned companies in our partner ecosystem, among other initiatives.
Do you also want to see our industry thrive, grow, evolve and stay relevant? I urge all of us, including my CRN Top 50 colleagues, to use our influence and voices to drive real actions. We can all make a difference no matter how big or small the effort. Following are a few ideas to get you started.
Is your organization recruiting from a diverse mix of colleges and universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HIS) and Tribal Colleges? It’s easy to look to the colleges in your own backyard but expanding your scope outside of your usual go-to list, including community colleges and other programs, will not only broaden your pool of candidates but also yield a more qualified and diverse group.
Think back over the last year and the people you have seen promoted in your business. Do they reflect a diverse group of individuals or is there a common pattern of promoting similar people? If it’s the latter, bring this to your leadership’s attention and volunteer to help change it.
Teams and Leaders
On the next video conference with your team or upper management, take a moment to look around and see if the participants represent a diverse group of people. If so, recognize and celebrate it! Let your colleagues and friends know this is important to you. If not, use the opportunity to start a constructive dialogue to acknowledge it and explore paths to change.
Mentoring is one of the most valuable experiences of a career where the benefits serve both the mentee and mentor. Anyone can be a mentor, and anyone could have a mentor. If you’ve got experience to share, consider reaching out to someone who’s unlike you. What you both will gain from the experience can be rewarding on multiple fronts.
I’d like to hear what ideas you have for driving this change, as well. We can all benefit from sharing our experiences and working together to make things better. By tackling this much-overlooked obstacle, we can experience more growth and success, both as individuals and as an industry. It may not happen next year, but I’m hopeful that lists recognizing the top leaders in our industry increasingly reflect progress being made on diversity, equity and inclusion.
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