Sodexo and Catalyst working together to ‘Disrupt’ the Gender Gap for Women in Tech

At the ‘Disrupt the Default-Closing the Gender Gap for Women in Tech’ event organised by catering and facilities services company Sodexo Ireland and global non-profit organisation Catalyst at the Bord Bia Thinkhouse on Tuesday 11 July in Dublin, Margot Slattery, country president for Sodexo Ireland, said that tech-intensive industries are being decimated by an exodus of female role models at all levels due to the prevailing cultural issues around lifestyle.

Margot Slattery, who co-hosted the event with Sandra Ondraschek-Norris, senior director, Catalyst Europe, said, “More needs to be done to disrupt the prevailing 24/7 ethos which can make working in tech-intensive industries incredibly difficult for women with families as well as men. In addition, more female role models are needed at all levels to demonstrate how a career can be managed in the ‘real world’ in terms of lifestyle and family and not just at the wealthier C-suite level.”


The event highlighted the latest research, techniques and best practices that organisations around the world are employing to advance gender balanced teams in the technology sector.


Sodexo has long been a workplace pioneer of diversity and inclusion.  It was one of 11 founding partners and signatories of Ireland’s first Diversity Charter and Margot Slattery has received numerous accolades for her role in promoting gender balance as part of its diversity and inclusion agenda.  Sodexo also received the 2012 Catalyst Award in North America, given to honour exceptional business initiatives that advance women in the workplace.


Catalyst is the leading non-profit organisation with a mission to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion.  Its research, High Potentials in Tech-Intensive Industries: The Gender Divide in Business Roles, showed that highly qualified women are not opting out of the workplace, but they are opting out of STEM industries.  More than half of women (53%) who started out in tech-intensive industries working in a business role left to take a position in another industry compared to just 31% of men, the research found.


Sandra Ondraschek-Norris, senior director, Catalyst Europe, said, “These women are taking their talents elsewhere and we need to ask, why? It’s essential that we work with male leaders to move the needle on this issue and challenge the prevailing view of ‘what do women have to do’ to make change?  In fact, it’s time to stop ‘fixing the women’ and fix   the culture in tech instead which is damaging the industry’s ability to attract the best talent.”

Pictures l/r: Margot Slattery, country president, Sodexo Ireland, Sandra Ondraschek-Norris, senior director, Catalyst Europe and Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, Minister of State at the Dept of Education with special responsibility for higher education at the Disrupt the Default-Closing the Gender Gap for Women in Tech

Ms Norris shared two nuggets with the audience which highlighted how some seemingly small things can reinforce barriers to female progression. One individual said she tells young women to use black coffee mugs because it doesn’t show lipstick marks. Another, a chief technology officer, said she tells young women not to bring notebooks to meetings because people will assume they’re secretaries as this kept happening to her, even as she became more senior.  Sandra said that the anecdotes reveal the impact the prevailing culture is having on retaining and attracting top female talent.


Sodexo’s own research into the business case for gender equality gathered data from 52,000 of its own managers, from senior individuals to on the ground site managers, across the globe.


Margot Slattery commented, Where our teams are more gender balanced they are more engaged, productive and profitable, so there’s a clear business case. Over the past three consecutive years, the gender-balanced teams were 13% more likely to record consistent organic growth and 23% more likely to show an increase in gross profit.  They also performed better for employee engagement, brand image, consumer satisfaction and client retention.  It does not mean that ‘unbalanced’ teams don’t perform, but the study found they did not perform as well.”  


Ms Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Higher Education also spoke at the event. The Minister said Female students out-perform male students and represent a higher proportion of graduates overall. Yet while women represent some 42% of academic staff in the universities and institutes of technology, only 19% of professors in Irish universities are female. Ensuring the fair representation and career progression of female academics is important in retaining Ireland’s international reputation for the quality and impact of our scientific community. As a country, it is patently obvious that we can’t afford to under-utilise the talent of 50% of the population if we are to be globally competitive.”


Sodexo is one of the country’s largest providers of catering and facilities services to clients in business and industry, healthcare, government services and education. It employs 2,300 staff in over 200 locations across Ireland with a turnover of €98m in 2016.


Source: Sodexo Ireland

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