Women Find Tech Career Opportunities in the Microsoft Channel, Part 1 – MSDynamicsWorld.com
The challenges facing women in technical professions continue to make headlines. Women account for just 12 percent of engineers, while their ranks within computing have fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to 26 percent today, according to a 2015 report by the American Association of University Women.
Myriad factors account for the poor showing of women in many technical positions. Bias appears to be one. A study included in the AAUW report showed employers routinely rated a hypothetical male job candidate more competent than a female, even though the two had identical resumes.
Even once women are hired for technical jobs, they tend to enter the field at lower positions and pay levels than men with similar backgrounds, reports Catalyst, Inc., a nonprofit focused on expanding opportunities for women and business. The dearth of female colleagues can leave women in technology positions feeling like outsiders. A 2014 Catalyst report states, “Feeling like an outsider relative to their coworkers affects their access to development opportunities, sponsorship, and ultimately their aspirations to the top.”
No single action will address all the factors contributing to the challenges facing women in (or hoping to work in) technology, nor the companies that would like to attract more women to their ranks. One piece of the solution may be to explore real success stories, hearing from women who have found roles at Microsoft partner organizations across a range of functions. A recently published eBook from Microsoft, 12 amazing tech jobs and the women who rock them, attempts to do just that, with profiles of a dozen women who work in technology roles with Microsoft partners in the US. It also explains some the jargon – channel, ISV, system integrator, etc. – that can be confusing to individuals in other fields, regardless of gender, who may be considering a role in the Microsoft partner ecosystem.
MSDynamicsWorld.com spoke with the author of the book, Barb Levisay. She is a veteran of the Microsoft channel, having held titles including VP of Sales and Marketing, Director of Client Services and National Director of Client Services for both Dynamics and SharePoint partners. Levisay still works with on a range of initiatives in the Microsoft partner channel and writes a column for Redmond Channel Partner magazine.
MSDW: What was the catalyst behind this book?
Barb Levisay: It’s a tool to help partners. At Convergence, (the annual Microsoft Dynamics conference) many partners were talking to me about attracting more women. It’s a real problem.
To start, they have to explain what they do – how partners are technology service providers. Many people (of both genders) don’t understand that. Microsoft wants to do more to educate everyone. For most partners to invest in education is a big thing, because many are small.
One concern I have is that a lot of the conversations (about the role of women in technical fields) are about coding. Technology is so much more than that. Most of the women in the book are not coding. They’re consultants who help businesses use Microsoft products. They make a difference for Microsoft customers.
I proposed the book to the U.S. Partner Group at Microsoft – that to help partners with their recruitment effort, we put together a book profiling women who work for Dynamics partners and others. Microsoft was thrilled.
Partners can use the book to educate others about the channel. Some partners have gone to their local universities and shared this and other information about the channel with them.
What struck you most about the women profiled?
The thing that surprised me was how little we talked challenges, and how little negativity they had about any obstacles they faced. Every one of them was positive. I’m sure each one has had difficult situations, but they all looked at the positives, the people who helped them, and how they moved forward and were able to go further than they thought.
When I asked the question about challenges, I left it open. I wanted to see what they said. Most they talked about how they didn’t give up and persevered. Even when they took on scary assignments, they had the confidence to jump in and do it. Yes, they were nervous and had self-doubts, but they pushed through. It was inspiring.
Can you talk about the backgrounds of the women profiled? Just a few had a technology background.
Most of the women I spoke with said they had no intention of going into technology when they started their careers. It’s wonderful they found their way, but also shows the value of the message we’re trying to convey.
Technology partners need all kinds of people – people who can communicate, people in marketing. Project managers are good at communication and organization, and business analysts are good at digging into the processes of a business.
How do you see the role of women in the channel changing?
The women in technology movement within the Microsoft partner ecosystem has really gained strength over the past couple of years. For instance, at the [Worldwide Partner Conference] WPC 2015 in Orlando, the Women in Technology luncheon sold out early. There’s a lot of focus on women in the ecosystem. In terms of awareness, we’ve seen a huge change.
The women profiled in the book all felt really strongly about their employers being supportive.
Microsoft made this ebook happen to help their partners. They deserve credit for that. They’re doing some great stuff with diversity and helping partners crack that nut.
Coming in Part 2: Women in the Microsoft channel speak for themselves.