Breaking Barriers – The Ladies of Data Centers

November 10, 2021

blog post 'breaking barriers' graphic

It’s been a while now where women have been highly underrepresented, a problem that is not exclusive to the data center world.  But as this is our sector, we must turn the tables and make space for change without hesitation. To tackle structural inequities, a systems-level approach is an excellent start to get change moving.

What is a systems-level approach, you ask? It’s a shock to the system, to all its layers, including the way business is done and how it deals with humans independently of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, and other factors.

This goes from the hiring process and fostering talent, personal development, and acceptance to creating a sharing atmosphere in the office – both physical and virtual.

It is shocking to still see so many businesses within our space with only 10% or less of its workforce being female. Just look at the latest ESG reports from large operators.

We have spoken about this being a generational problem for years, whereas men were given more opportunities than women. The conversation shifted to campaigning for more activities around schools and universities to train the next generation.

Fast track a few years, now that we have seen several programs rolled out, we still lack to witness the needle moving, and much more needs to be done. Yes, some are still in school, but we are still at the starting line after nearly ten years since conversations on the topic started.

For instance, women have historically also had their career opportunities cut short due to family-related matters, for example, childcare. There’s an interesting study from 2012, “Motherhood and its impact on career progression,” led by Ronald W. McQuaid, professor of work and employment at the University of Stirling, that looked at women vs. men career paths when children are in the picture.

chart showing career paths by genderUnsurprisingly, women’s career progression suffers more deeply than the opposite sex. And the picture has not changed in the last nearly decade, with the COVID-19 pandemic setting women back and eating away many of the accomplishments that were conquered leading up to March 2020.

A CNBC and SurveyMonkey’s Women at Work survey published just last spring has found that of the more than 3,600 female participants, 65% of working women believe the pandemic has made things worse for women at work.

The number of women (42%) describing themselves as “very ambitious” has also plummeted because of the pandemic compared to March 2020 (54%).

CNBC chart

This situation worsens depending on the women’s background, with Black and Hispanic Women losing their outlook within the workplace noticeably more than White Women.

CNBC chart

As we step closer to 2022, it is time to roll up the sleeves and get to work to make next year count and invert the downward trend of women losing their spirits at work and missing career opportunities.

Taking to the Front Seat

Here at EdgeConneX, we acted early and launched WomenConneX (WcX), an employee resource group part of the business’ Customers, People, Planet vision of a modern enterprise.

Spearheaded by Angela Capon, Senior Director of Global Marketing, WcX was formed for women and those identifying as women with the mission to close the gender gap across the industry. The group assists with aligning industry movers and covers topics from women in tech, industry news to female mental/physical health wellbeing. One of its goals is to encourage/mentor women to enter the tech field and advance their careers.

To date, all female employees at EdgeConneX have joined the group and recently partnered with the successful external group Leading Ladies of…Data Centers.

Yet, WcX isn’t just for women. EdgeConneX male employees are also welcomed to participate, with CMO Phillip Marangella being a strong ally of the program and CEO Randy Brockman, who championed this group from the beginning and wholeheartedly supported the company’s mission to empower a culture of inclusiveness and equity globally.

“The goal is to nurture the women we have, get them to be an evangelist for the industry, not just EdgeConneX,” says Capon as she prepares to take to the stage at the Leading Allies Of… Data Centers and The Cloud: The Virtual Summit.

“Overall, there are very few women coming into the data center industry – women offer different perspectives and outlooks, and that knowledge is transferable from and to other industries,” she adds. “Females have come into EdgeConneX that have no data center experience but have so many other key skills and insights that are bringing huge value to the business.”

WcX’s real goal is to put forward women into an equal seat at the table. Simple. Capon sought management buy-in, presented the WCX objectives, and in a nanosecond reply from the board, and she got the go-ahead.

“I am often the only female in a 30-people meeting. I cannot just say we need more females and they don’t have to do their part. We all must do more to attract, train and encourage women to come into the industry.

“EdgeConneX has all the elements for any female to work successfully and be supported; flexibility; new promotion process put in place by HR to promote from within. This is thinking about females in the organization and current employees first before hiring outside the company in some ways.”

Capon and her colleagues want WcX to be more than a Women in Tech group. They want to make sure “the ladies we have are looked after well here, and that will spawn others to come to EdgeConneX.”

“We want to nurture and care for the people we have,” she says. “We are focusing on ensuring women have all the tools needed for the role they are in or the role they want. We are focused on keeping the communication path open, for example, by making sure they are heard.

“Right now, with us being so virtual, we want everyone connected; everyone needs to feel comfortable speaking up; having the platform to ask for more pay, something men wouldn’t think twice about asking.”

Capon takes on to quote Sarah Moore Grimké, who once said that “an idea built the wall of separation between the sexes, and an idea will crumble it to dust.”

“I don’t know if our WcX idea will crumble the sexes wall, but it surely will help hammer it, together with other industry initiatives until that wall is torn down,” she says.

Angela Capon will be participating at the Leading Allies Of… Data Centers and The Cloud: The Virtual Summit. To register and contribute, visit the event’s page here.

The inaugural annual virtual summit takes place on November 10, 4pm GMT, and has adopted as its theme ‘De-Mystifying D&I: Diversity in Our Digital Infrastructure,’ focusing on how the industry can ensure women and minority groups are at the forefront, standing shoulder to shoulder with male allies, as the industry grows and meets the changing needs of customers.

The event will also serve as a platform to fundraise money for Girls Who Code, an industry initiative who is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.