Celebrate women’s achievements. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality. We asked people across the business what International Women’s Day means to them, and to share their experiences of working in IT and how Westcon-Comstor is challenging gender inequality.

  • Joyslyn Chan, Senior Business Process Improvement Manager
  • Annemieke Pot, Director
  • Sawsen Hamidi, Sales Operations Specialist
  • Tshepiso Maphike, Digital Distribution Co-ordinator
  • Virginia Manyara, Regional HR Lead
  • Marianne Nickenig, VP EMEA Collaboration & Networking
  • Antje Miermeister, Sales Manager
  • Sheetal Kalra, Business Manager, Security Solutions

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Joyslyn: IWD is a day to acknowledge and celebrate the courage and achievements of women who have made positive changes towards gender equality. It’s also a moment to reflect and explore where we can make further improvements.

Annemieke: The passing of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg deepened my understanding of IWD. She was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. I was in awe of who she was and how she got there. For much of her legal career she was an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, and picked male plaintiffs to demonstrate that gender discrimination was harmful to both men and women. To come up with such a strategy was absolutely brilliant. She had to overcome many inequalities on her journey, but she kept going. Some of those challenges are no longer here today, but unfortunately, some still do exist.

Sawsen: It is a celebration of the perseverance of women to create equality and an opportunity to take stock of achievements and commit to further improvements.

Tshepiso: For me it’s a call to action to accelerate women’s equality, success, growth and personal development. It’s a time to reflect on improvements in women’s rights and explore how we can improve and build success in every woman’s life.

Why is it important for Westcon-Comstor to celebrate IWD?

Annemieke: It helps us to be a better and stronger organisation. It is finding the right person for the job or task, independent of gender. And on top of that, nobody should be treated differently because of who they are or who they choose to be.

Joyslyn: We are an international organisation and our global reach can play a significant part by raising awareness and creating positive change.

Sawsen: First of all to recognise the effort that has been made to build an inclusive and diverse culture in the company. Statistics shows that there still so few women in IT, so it’s important that we take part in this journey to address gender imbalance.

Tshepiso: We must ensure our organisation continues to promote gender equality and an inclusive working environment, and it is a great opportunity to reflect on and celebrate our current equity and inclusion practices.

Virginia: One of our values as Westcon-Comstor is empowerment and this day gives us an opportunity to look back and see where we have come from in our journey of women empowerment. We think about what we are doing well and where we can improve. It gives us an opportunity to remind our female employees that they matter and that they have what it takes to achieve greater things and break glass ceilings. It’s an opportunity to inspire and encourage our women to be all that they want to be.

What has been your experience as a woman in IT?

Marianne: When our twins were born, my husband and I had just bought an IT distributor. We had a responsibility to our employees and their families, so we had no choice but to work. It was not always easy reconciling work and family, and it was only made possible with the support and acceptance by my husband that I would run the business while he took care of the technical side. So one of the challenges facing women in business today is having the support of their families as well as the business. You have to consider that not everyone wants to take the next step – many prefer to focus on their family. We must respect everyone’s decisions and career goals and help them achieve them.

This year’s theme is #ChoosetoChallenge; how does Westcon-Comstor as a business challenge gender bias and inequality?

Antje: I am a working mum, raising two boys and responsible for the Inside Sales Team and the Sales Support Team in Germany. If I didn’t have the full support of my team at work and my family at home, this would not be possible. I’m pleased to work for a business who understands these pressures, especially now we’re struggling with COVID, home schooling and lockdown.

Tshepiso: Westcon-Comstor employs more women in leadership roles, promotes a healthy work-life balance for both genders, and offers training and mentors to everyone in the company.

How do you ‘choose to challenge’ in your personal life or career?

Annemieke: I have never let myself stop by thinking “that is not for me because I am a woman” or “I am in marketing”. I just get on with it and give it my best shot.

Sawsen: I ‘choose to challenge’ by raising awareness with friends and family of the persistent issue of access to education.

Virginia: As an HR Leader, I choose to foster an environment where both men and women are given equal opportunities and feel valued and accepted. Opportunities for growth and development based on merit. I support managers through coaching and training to help eliminate unconscious bias. We want all our employees to know that it doesn’t matter how they look, who they are or where they come from, that their ideas and opinions matter and there is a place for them at the table.

Why is diversity and equality important in the workplace?

Tshepiso: Diversity and equality brings new skills and talent to the team, promotes innovation, opens new markets, improves productivity and improves brand reputation.

Virginia: Everyone is different, and because we are all different, we all bring something different and unique to the table. It is that uniqueness or different perspective or different opinion that makes life more interesting. When a company embraces diversity and cultivates an environment of respect and equality, employees feel valued and accepted, and as a result their engagement and productivity levels increase. In the end, the company grows and becomes a great place to work, and the employees reap the benefits of working for a great company that performs well.

Sheetal: Variety is the spice of life, and equality and diversity in the workplace brings new ideas and new ways of thinking, which helps business growth and makes it a fun place to work.

How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in IT?

Antje: We should encourage more women to pursue a career in IT because of the opportunities in such a growing industry. Women shouldn’t be afraid of taking on responsibility and leadership, or end up in low-paid jobs that are historically the ‘women’s’ domain. We mustn’t let society impose traditional gender roles on women after starting a family just because of the financial pressure. My children see no difference between their mum and dad, and I’m proud to show them that this is possible.

Virginia: Our message that Westcon-Comstor is an equal opportunities employer resonates well with career women, and I believe we are already doing quite well in this area; our arms are open and ready to welcome women who believe in us as we grow the business. In offices where we don’t have a good representation of women, we can create programmes that encourage the employment of women. For example, in Westcon Middle East we are launching a Saudi Women Development programme to hire and develop high-calibre Saudi women. There is great talent in the kingdom and the time is ripe for us to tap into this talent pool.

Joyslyn: Actions speak louder than words, and creating a healthy and positive environment where women’s voices are heard and respected will naturally attract more women to work in IT.

Sheetal: Ensuring women get equivalent opportunities and career growth to men will motivate women to dream big and perform at their best.

What advice would you give to women considering a career in IT?

Annemieke: Work hard and work smart. Know more than everyone else and never stop learning, and you will establish a great foundation.

Tshepiso: Always take pride in your career. The first step is learning how to communicate what drives you! Show that you’re up for the challenge – missing qualifications aren’t a weakness, adopt the mentality that it’s an opportunity to sell your determination to succeed! Then just NETWORK, NETWORK, NEWORK and go for it!

Who do you admire in IT and the business world?

Marianne: Angela Merkel is one of my idols for her calmness under pressure. In IT, I enjoyed working with Teresa Caragol when she was VP of Worldwide Channels at Extreme Networks and responsible for overseeing the strategy and execution of its channel of 1,500 partners spanning more than 50 countries. Today she helps promote diversity and inclusive leadership in the workplace through her partner performance company, AchieveUnite.

Annemieke: I admire people who take ownership, who are respectful, give credit where credit is due, are positive and stimulate those around them to be the best they can be.

Tshepiso: Ginni Rometty was chairman, president and CEO of IBM, and the first woman to head the company. She won numerous accolades during her career, but what I admire most was her leadership style – she was a passionate and influential leader but was also creative, open and honest which I find very inspiring.

Virginia: I’m a big fan of all the women of Westcon-Comstor and super proud of them. They are doing a phenomenal job and it’s amazing to see the dedication, commitment, diligence and excellence that they bring to work. Being in HR I have the privilege of meeting and interacting with people from different departments and regions, and whether it’s a woman who’s just resumed from maternity leave or one who’s just got married; one who is looking after a sick loved one or one who has got everything together; one who has just graduated or a long serving employee, whichever stage or period of life they are in, they all have one thing in common – they are passionate about what they do and they do it so well. Hats off ladies, keep rocking!