Last week, members of the Marketing CoPilot Team attended ChannelCon in Austin, Texas. ChannelCon is hosted by CompTIA, an organization dedicated to advancing the technology sector. The keynote address by CompTIA President Todd Thibodeaux, was not what we expected. It was not about hot new technology, the Cloud or the changing business landscape of Managed Service Providers (MSPs). It was about people and diversity.

Diversity: An Unexpected Topic

Thibodeaux asserts that the IT sector needs to ensure it’s a diverse industry to bridge its skills-gap and capitalise on the innovation inherent in drawing from as wide a talent pool as possible. He went on to point out an eye-opening statistic. When compared to a census of the general population, one million women are missing from IT. “That’s a hole equal to 20 percent of the tech workforce,” he said.

I was delighted to hear his talk because of the theme of my speech later in the conference, Understanding Digital Marketing from a Human Perspective. In our quest to move faster as a symptom of the technology revolution which has swamped us for the last 40 years, we have forgotten to stop and think about the people behind the technology and the make-up of the industry. Diversity is an important element of the technology sector that has been overlooked. It was refreshing to hear comments about the importance of diversity at a time when machines seem to be overtaking humans.

Diversity is a way of thinking

Diversity is not about hitting quotas or benchmarks. It is about considering opinions and ideas regardless of geography, gender or background. And while the numbers reference a distinct lack of women in the tech sector, it’s important to ask why.

Many observers of this phenomenon in IT continue to point to the skills gap as the issue behind lack of diversity. But Thibodeaux and others point to a confidence gap: Anyone can acquire the skills to perform a job in technology but they don’t always have the confidence required to be successful in the industry.

I have personally experienced this firsthand. Although 50% of my day, every day, gets spent working on or figuring out technology issues, it took a long time before I was assertive enough in front of old school IT professionals to be confident enough to say, “I am part of the IT sector.” Being a marketing professional for 30 years, sorting out the delivery of digital marketing solutions was often not enough for people in technology-centric businesses to accept me. Even as the past chair of a technology association, I was seen as a “service provider”, not an IT professional.

What’s ironic about this, is that one of the biggest challenges facing the Managed Service Provider (MSPs) sector is that just building or selling technology is no longer enough. It’s the service that surrounds the delivery of technology, or the “people” aspect of the technology that matters to customers today. There is more than enough technology in the world – it’s about how we use it and the people who are able to make sense of it that matters.

Just this subtle shift in thinking makes the industry more inclusive and diverse. Technology is part of every business today. We are all in IT in some way, shape or form and by adjusting our thinking, we automatically make is more inclusive and diverse.

It’s time to open our minds to alternative approaches and our doors to people with different backgrounds.

I can vouch for the confidence gap. I believe its real and a powerful force today with young women in particular considering their career path. While coding and systems management may not seem appealing, almost every job or career you consider has a technology or IT component to it. We must all confidently acknowledge and accept this and work hard to bring all types of companies and people into the IT sector.

Since joining ComTIA as a Member of the Canadian Board and joining the Advancing Woman in IT Community, I have been able to talk more confidently about my business as a marketing technology company. We have even taken a big leap forward in signing up as an Agency Partner with Hubspot and offering marketing automation tools, customisation and services. It took us a while to get here, but the work we have done with technology companies of many shapes and sizes has prepared us for the future.

Let’s work together on this one. Closing the confidence gap makes us all better.

Please take a moment and download the CompTIA speech – Understanding Digital Marketing from a Human Perspective, here.