The challenge of increasing diversity in IT is now firmly on the agenda across the UK, but it is far from a solved problem. Women are still under-represented across the industry, especially at higher echelons, and they're also likely to be paid less than their male counterparts for the same work.
The Women in Tech Excellence Awards are designed to help move us towards a solution as an industry, by recognising and promoting IT's many talented women.
This year's winners will be announced at a live awards ceremony on Thursday 23rd November in London.
Daisy Corporate Services, one of the finalists, has been on the shortlist for the Role Model of the Year - Consultancies and Professional Services; and Team Leader of the Year - Enterprise.
We caught up with Maria Rhodes-Johnson, Connectivity Team Lead at Daisy Corporate Services, to find out what makes her company different from other technology companies and what are they working on this year.
Maria has always been a problem solver. Having started out in a stereotypically "female role" as a secretary, Maria soon discovered her passion for IT after frequently troubleshooting people's tech issues. From there, she was inspired by IT mentors to develop her technical skills and has since grown to be an expert in the field. Today, she shares her knowledge and experience with her team of engineers as a team leader, always keen to give others the same inspiration and opportunities to develop that she had.
Computing: Please provide some background on your company for our readers.
Maria Rhodes-Johnson: Having been established in 2001, Daisy has grown from a company operated out of one man's garage, to becoming one of today's largest independent providers of IT services in the UK. We provide end-to-end solutions, covering operational resilience; cloud; unified communications; connectivity; modern workplace and cybersecurity.
What makes you different from other companies?
Customers rely on us as expert consultants who can also deliver the full solution from start to finish - consolidating their supplier network into a single point of contact. Our relationships with key partners and vendors sets us apart, as we are able to combine the best technologies, software and services the industry has to offer into a solution that delivers exactly what our customers need to enable growth.
What one company achievement in the last 12 months are you most proud of?
Engagement and wellbeing is important to me and to the business. In the last year, we've made great progress in activities aimed at increasing the support available to our colleagues. We've been training new mental health first aiders who can be on hand to support colleagues when they need it and organising what we call the "Bridging the Gap Forum", which allows colleagues at all levels of the business to provide feedback to their local representatives which will be discussed at board level. As a Wellbeing Champion, mental health first aider and bridging the gap representative, I'm incredibly proud to have been involved in growing these initiatives and seeing the impact it is having on both colleagues and the business.
What are you working on this year?
At the minute, I'm mostly excited to be expanding our product catalogue. We're currently working on onboarding new systems and technologies to help us further expand what we can deliver and stay ahead of the curve of technological development. This means lots of upskilling through the rollout of training courses and I'm excited to see our people develop as a result.
Why are events like the Women in Tech Excellence important to the IT industry?
The tech industry is full of female role models that the world doesn't always get the chance to see. The Women in Tech Excellence Awards is an amazing platform to shine a light on these people and prove to the world that this is a valid career path for women who otherwise might have thought of it as a "male role". Daisy is a perfect example - half of our board of directors is female and we have a whole webpage showcasing the inspirational women behind the scenes in our business. It's so important to have that representation, because the gender stereotypes are a self-fulfilling prophecy and it means women are missing out on their ideal role.
By encouraging more women into the tech industry, we're increasing diversity. Diverse teams are proven to be more productive and innovative and so there's so much to be gained from this. On a more personal note though, many young women won't have heard about a lot of B2B tech companies, because they won't naturally come into contact with us. Through events like this, we're raising awareness of Daisy and the other companies nominated and hopefully inspiring someone to consider a career with us.