Emma De Sousa on the Value of Diversity and the Importance of Meritocracy
Emma de Sousa: 'I would love to see more female candidates coming forward for jobs'
Insight's UK managing director and senior vice president of EMEA marketing talks to CRN about the value of diversity, the importance of meritocracy, and the many initiatives her firm supports to ensure a balanced workforce
With a median gender pay gap of 29 per cent compared to the national median of 18.9 per cent, Insight's UK boss Emma de Sousa is the first to admit the firm has some work to do to address the issue.
She strongly believes that business leaders need to inspire women to be successful, and claims she has been fortunate enough to receive plenty of encouragement along the way from male and female colleagues as she progressed up the career ladder.
Emma de Sousa started as a sales manager at Insight over 15 years ago, and moved up the ranks pretty swiftly.
"I joined Insight because I wanted to be part of a fast-paced organisation - committed to making a difference," she said. "Insight has been a perfect place because it is all about the people - our motto is Hunger, Heart and Harmony.
"I became a director three years after joining Insight, and when it acquired Software Spectrum I became director of EMEA operations based in Munich," she said.
Her next move was VP sales for Southern Europe, based in Paris, and she came back to lead the UK business in 2009.
"The business has changed dramatically - if I look back at the business in 2009 it is a very different business to that I see today," she said.
Her role has since been expanded to include VP of marketing EMEA.
"It is a very exciting position because marketing is a key priority for us - investing in our digital marketing capabilities and seeing some very exciting opportunities," she said.
However, de Sousa said the channel is an industry that is "bursting with opportunity" regardless of gender, and it is important to get the balance right.
"There is no doubt that diversity and inclusion are some of the biggest challenges facing the industry today," she admitted. "And this is not just the IT industry; it is across the board. Talent diversity is key to creating that competitive edge, and I believe we cannot address the needs of clients without diversity.
"We have a responsibility to our industry to be attractive to all talent - we want to inspire the next generation of talent - it is key to the long-term success of the channel."
She said diversity across the industry is key on the agenda for Insight.
"I am fortunate that I have a 50/50 male/female split in my senior leadership team. It was not engineered that way, but luckily it just happened, and we are seeing the benefits of having diversity in that team. I have worked very hard to get where I am, and I have been in a position where I have been able to accept opportunities that came my way. But I would love to see more female candidates coming forward for jobs."
She explained that Insight's gender pay gap results are partly because more men tend to have roles in the external sales fields and technical roles that offer higher salaries.
"More needs to be done to attract women to these roles, and we have a bunch of initiatives to ensure this happens," de Sousa said.
One initiative, she explained, is the Tech Talent Charter, which is centred on bringing together individuals and organisations to develop diversity and address the imbalance.
"George Brasher at HP is one of the key sponsors of this initiative," she said. "Under this companies pursue inclusive agendas both with recruiting, but also how to develop and promote diversity of talent within that organisation. It gives advice on how to develop, share and implement best practice in this area."
Another scheme is Insight's own Career Break Returner programme, aimed at women coming back from maternity leave.
Insight has also strived to have balanced interview panels, flexible working practices and policies that support a diverse workforce and encourage all employees to combine careers and family, as well as enhancing leadership programmes to progress talent across the organisation, and is working with schools and universities to help build the next generation workforce, de Sousa said.
But it is important not to stray into positive discrimination territory, she added.
"Employment panel diversity gives women the confidence to excel and shine in interviews. Having a balanced and diverse workforce is important to me, but positive discrimination is not the answer. It is about having the best person for the job. Meritocracy is key," she said.
"The opportunities are endless and we need to make sure that everybody knows what a vibrant and brilliant place the channel is to be," de Sousa added. "We need to step up and inspire women that the channel is the place to be - what we don't want to do is over pivot, but instead create platforms where everybody - both male and female - can excel."
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