Holly Bentley

Sales Operations Director, Westcoast

What is the most pressing issue preventing progress with diversity today that no one is talking about?

Today, we are so terrified of messing up and saying the wrong thing to friends, colleagues, employees, board members, clients or customers that we are paralyzed into inaction. People are so concerned about how to effectively engage in diversity conversations without offending anyone that they now need encouragement/permission/advice before they speak or ask questions.

What progress do you think the industry has made in diversity since you started working in IT?

The business case for diversity is stronger than ever, and more companies than ever are talking about strategies to make progress on diversity and inclusion, but progress itself has stalled.

What should senior management teams do more to help create a more inclusive industry for all?

Hiring based on talent, not CV. Where possible, we should refrain from using a list of desired credentials, qualifications and experience, but instead have a set of core qualities such as lateral thinking and creativity that will help us uncover the exceptional and unorthodox candidates they truly possess greatest potential. This creates a larger pool of talent to recruit from and will offer opportunities to candidates that our competitors may have overlooked.

How did you first get into the IT industry?

I worked in the leisure industry after graduating with a sports science degree at university, and after seven years of great success I realized I didn’t have time to enjoy my own free time. I looked for entry-level roles outside of the leisure industry that would allow me to use my transferable skills and eventually Westcoast gave me the opportunity to prove myself. I’ve been working my way up the ladder ever since.

What has been your experience (both good and bad) with how the IT industry has historically approached diversity?

I have very little experience to be honest. I was part of a group that was put together with the intention of increasing the number of women in our workplace, but it seemed more like a tick in the box and we haven’t seen any further action since that meeting over 18 months ago. One of the proposed changes to the recruitment process was to ensure that a certain number of women were interviewed for our available roles, but when discussing this proposal with colleagues we found this quite offensive and many expressed that they would not wanted to understand that they were only being interviewed to meet a quota.

Who have been your biggest role models in your professional life and how have they helped you succeed?

I can’t say I have one, which in itself is very telling. More needs to be done to highlight and celebrate great role models. There is room for more senior women in the industry and we need to support each other in our success and development, but instead the world is competitive and too many women want to see their peers fail or want nothing more than to reign supreme.

Do you think companies should be forced to publish “ethnic pay gap” data?

Yes, and why stop at gender and ethnicity? Have you always found it easy to be open about your identity in the workplace? As a gay woman, I really struggled to be open and honest about my sexuality, and I covered up my past relationships by renaming my current wife “Ben” on my phone so no one would find out. I remember an instance when people in the business asked me what my sexual orientation was; people I had never talked to before. Since coming out as gay, I have not consciously been the target of any negativity and have instead seen the positive impact it has had on other staff members/recruits who were concerned about taking those first steps to come out.

What can employers do to create a more inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ staff?

Make sure LGBTQ+ training is included in equality and diversity training as I feel this can often be overlooked. What do you think are the most effective ways an employer can promote a multicultural and multireligious workplace? Help for continuing education. I don’t believe our education system provides nearly enough information and support to learn about different cultural traditions and approaches to work. They could also encourage the sharing of cultural celebrations in the workplace.


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