Robert DeMarzo looks at why you should closely consider issues of sexual harassment in the workplace in light of the recent sexual harassment allegations impacting the media and entertainment business.

In the past few months, there have been some extraordinary revelations about sexual harassment in the workplace, particularly in the media and entertainment businesses. As news of these disclosures were being made public, we were busy organizing two major conferences designed for established and future women leaders in the high-tech industry.

Those conferences include the inaugural Women of the Channel Europe summit and the huge Women of the Channel East conference which attracts some 800 attendees. All of this put us in the very enviable position of hearing reactions directly from women in business and the takeaways for midmarket IT leaders.

At the recent Midsize Enterprise Summit Fall 2017 conference, we assembled a group of women leaders to engage in a discussion about the challenges they are facing and the opportunities they see. Some of what we heard may seem basic, but is worth thinking about how it impacts management style of both men and women and how you construct the leadership team and your overall organization. The issues go beyond the teams managed by IT leaders and impact the overall organization so make sure what you are hearing from those you work directly with is communicated to senior management.

Here are a few key takeaways…

  • We just wrapped up our Women of the Channel Europe Summit in London and the women leaders gathered said gender diversity at many U.K. companies is seriously lacking. For those who manage or work with teams outside the U.S., what we heard was interesting. Many attendees (and presenters) said they are often the only women in attendance at important meetings or present at industry events where audiences that are nearly 100 percent male. It is interesting that in the U.K., the attendees want men who are driving gender diversity in their organizations involved in the event vs. the U.S. audience which wants to focus solely on the issues of women in the workplace.
  • At our Women of the Channel East Conference, which will take place Dec. 4-5, our Board asked to add a session that specifically addresses the issues of bullying and harassment in the workplace. The Board, and the panelists who will be speaking, said the discussion should be gender-neutral as they have encountered bullying from both men and women throughout their careers.
  • There have been numerous stories and research studies about the power of diverse teams. What we have heard from our attendees and Board members is that managers must ensure that teams, no matter how small, will be more effective and successful if they are made up of a diverse group.
  • Time and time again, we have heard from attendees and Board members that women are less likely than men to pursue specific opportunities in their organizations. The reason we heard is that many women want to ensure they have the full complement of skills needs for the task vs. men who are more likely to accept a new assignment even though they may lack some of the necessary skills and learn on the job. Managers need to understand this dynamic and take a closer look at the individuals they need for specific career-building assignments and make sure that women are not being left behind.
  • Speaking of recruitment, our events are now including specific workshops designed to help young women in college pursue careers in the high-tech industry. Managers need to reach these students at events or as mentors to encourage them to pursue careers in IT given the shortage of workers overall and the specific lack of women seeking jobs in high-tech.
  • Finally, every manager must remember they are a role model. The manager’s words and actions have a big impact on their teams so they must speak and act carefully and thoughtfully. In addition, they set the tone of who everyone is treated in their organization and it is up to them to ensure that the issue of gender diversity is taken seriously.  

While the news stories of sexual harassment will no doubt subside, the impact will be felt for years to come. IT managers at midmarket companies must examine these issues carefully, lead by example and ensure that their teams and leadership ranks have the right mix to optimize results. Managers must also be mindful that many individuals climbing up the ranks of their organizations may be reluctant to speak out about the bad behavior of those in power.