by Christian Harris
The last day or two got me thinking, and the stack of outstanding invoices on my desk had nothing to do with it! There are not many women working in IT (marketing luvvies excluded), let alone running businesses in the sector. Why is that I wonder? Well, it’s a pretty boring industry full of geeks I guess. But there has to be more to it than that - doesn’t there?
There are actually around 620,000 majority women-owned businesses in the UK - that’s more than ever before but the number of such businesses winning corporate and public sector contracts is still shockingly low.
It’s pretty difficult for women to climb the ranks in IT, let alone run a business in the sector, as there just aren’t enough of them. As such, it can be quite hard as a woman, however talented, to win contracts. Put yourself in the place of a women for a moment. How would you like to walk through the door and there’s you and nine men after the same contract? The odds are often stacked against you...
I don’t think it’s totally dire, and the situation will change. If more women in the IT industry win contracts - and do a good job of it - then public awareness will eventually change and a virtuous circle will be created: more women will be attracted to the industry and, in turn, more women will win contracts.
One initiative that could help change this situation is WEConnect (or Women in Enterprise Connecting to Contracts), a Women’s Enterprise Task Force (WETF) scheme launched to critical acclaim at the House of Commons last month (February) - and which received strong endorsement in the Government’s recent Enterprise Strategy.
The scheme hopes to break down the barriers faced by women-owned businesses in securing corporate contracts (although 16% of UK businesses are currently women owned, only 3- to 5% of corporate and public sector contracts go to women-owned businesses).
The new initiative will put certified women business enterprises in touch with key procurement contacts in multi-national companies. This should encourage supplier diversity by giving large corporates the confidence to purchase from women-owned businesses which have achieved the WEConnect certification. Based on a successful U.S. prototype, the scheme has already signed up major corporates including Accenture, Microsoft, Bank of America and Pfizer.
I really do hope WEConnect gives women the chance to build relationships with large organisations that want to work with women-owned businesses by getting access to corporates at a level that they perhaps wouldn’t otherwise be able to. If it at least opens the right doors it’s a step in the right direction.