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Portman Insights

No Women? No Problem?

Not having enough women is one problem…

Not recognising it as a problem is a bigger one.

Business woman in city center looking at view of skyline skyscra

Author: Dr Terri Simpkin - Portman Associate

One doesn’t need to look far to find a raft of evidence to support a compelling argument for workplace diversity.  From the World Economic Forum[1] and the United Nations[2] to McKinsey[3] and whole host of think tanks and industry bodies, the business case for generating an inclusive workforce is clear. Better profit returns, greater access to creative and diverse ideas, improved innovation and broader market appeal are only some of the well-documented returns from a diverse workforce.

While gender diversity is only one piece in the whole diversity debate, the recent Uptime Institute Global Data Centre Survey 2018[4] identifies that DCs are thinking about the topic. But only briefly and in a way that highlights a pressing and ingrained cultural problem.

Data from the report indicates that 56% of survey respondents suggested that women represent less than 6% of their design, build or operations staff.  Of course, this is not surprising, look at any industry publication and go to any event for the sector and you’ll find it awash with a fairly homogenous profile.  However, what is more compelling about the report’s findings is the lack of capacity to join the dots.  While it’s clear that the industry has so few women 73% of respondents suggest that this isn’t a problem.

That, in itself, is a fundamental problem the sector needs to come to terms with.  While the report identifies a ‘groundhog day’ list of skills, labour, talent retention, innovation and complexity challenges, facing the sector nearly two thirds of survey respondents don’t see the connection between establishing a diverse workforce and probable resolutions to the challenges they face, at least in part.

Over 70% don’t see that broadening out the labour pool to attract non-traditional employees as part of the resolution to the pressing labour problem.  Those same people will be unable to see that innovation and creativity delivered by diverse workforces may resolve pressing technical issues associated with climate change, AI, IoT and siloed approaches to working practices.  How is it that over 70% of respondents believe that good working practices including inclusion of diverse groups won’t contribute to reported epidemic of staff poaching, labour turnover and attrition?

As a key plank in the platform of our contemporary lifestyles, industry and communications, the DC sector must develop a more circumspect and informed view of improving diversity in all it’s forms including gender, socioeconomic background and neuro-diversity.   Not having enough women is one problem, not recognising it as a problem is a bigger one.  Until this becomes more widely evident the sector will continue to risk inefficiencies due to an aging, under-skilled and under-resourced global workforce.

Contact Portman Partners to achieve more balance in your Boardroom.


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