Human Resources

Does a lack of talent threaten to undermine tech diversity?

When it comes to diversity in tech, the question that has haunted the industry for the past several years is ‘are we doing enough?’

“I don't know if I'll ever be able to say we're doing enough because I don't think I'll be able to say that until we're at 50%,” confesses McAfee Chief HR Officer Chatelle Lynch, “but we're sure doing everything I know how right now.”

Over the course of her career, McAfee has undergone an interesting evolution. A company of only 1,000 employees when Lynch joined 12 years ago, she’s now responsible for over 7,500 people across 50 countries.

“Over the last five years we were bought by Intel, rolled into Intel first as a separately owned subsidiary and then we were fully integrated into Intel and then now we're out and an independent company again.

“But we learnt a lot during that time and Intel is an absolutely amazing company when it comes to their focus on diversity.”

In 2015, Intel pledged to reach equal representation among its employees by the year 2020 and during her five years working alongside them, Lynch was grateful for the programmes, practices and processes McAfee was able to leverage and continue to run after spinning back out.

“We do unconscious bias training and all types of values-based education,” she explains. “Instead of telling our employees what to do, we tell them why it's important and the unconscious bias training we did really helped educate employees on how you have to work harder to prove your points when you're a lone voice in a room of people who think differently to you.”

Lynch has also overseen the implementation of initiatives that help to redress the gender imbalance before candidates have even come through the door.

“In the interview process, you're always going to sit in front of a male and female,” she offers up as another example of McAfee’s diversity initiatives. “We will not sign off on job offers until we know they have been interviewed by a female.

“One of our new programmes is called McAfee Explorers where we allow our employees to bring their aged 11-18 children into the workplace to give them exposure.

“That's going to expand to under privileged children, women, and children from diverse schools. I believe that exposure is the key and I know we're talking about how to solve the problems we have right now but these issues need to be addressed earlier in the life cycle.”

When Lynch talks about what she’s currently doing to tackle the fact that only 25% of computing jobs are currently held by women, her face lights up with excitement and enthusiasm. She’s unapologetically honest about the problems the cybersecurity industry is currently facing yet fiercely determined to do everything she can to make a difference.

“With regards to the number of women we have working in the company, we're not where we need to be,” she admits “but you have to look at the big picture.”


Tackling the talent shortage

Cybersecurity Ventures reported that there will be 3.5 million jobs left unfilled by 2021, meaning Lynch’s biggest challenge as a HR professional is not only finding diverse talent but finding talent in the first place.

“That's what keeps me awake at night. The talent shortage of diverse candidates and what we can do to make sure we don't just think about today but five years from now and 10 years from now.”

The fear amongst many diversity advocates is that with the pressure on companies to fill roles, steps that have been taken to improve the make-up of a company will be put on the back burner and cause the tech industry to slip back into bad hiring habits.

It’s a problem impacting managers across the entire technical space and is one of the key reasons why so much emphasis is now being placed on improving STEM education for girls at the earliest possible age.

Lynch admits that her team is sometimes up against it when it comes to finding women to even interview for some positions but has no qualms about the dedication her recruiters show to reaching their diversity targets.

“I wouldn't be honest if I said it wasn't a problem. Sometimes there aren't the women out there and this is why I say it's going to take some time because we have to get young women and girls and diverse talent in these programmes while they're in school.

“We have to make it more appealing to these girls and show them it is exciting and not something they should be intimidated by. I'm determined not to let things go backwards for McAfee but it is something I lose sleep over because I can't pull diverse talent out of a hat. We have to teach them, educate them and grow them.”

Growth appears to be the key word for McAfee this year. Lynch spoke to me on the day McAfee announced its acquisition of SkyHigh Networks and she disclosed that her latest challenge would be working towards making these new employees feel welcome in a different work environment.

“My HR team is sick of my ideas,” she jokes. “[Because of the spin out] we're essentially nine months old but I never settle and there's so much I want to do. You always feel like you could be doing better.”

Despite the constant pressure she puts on herself to do better, Lynch is very much an optimist. She’s proud to be at the forefront of this movement for change and determined to see it carry on in the future.

“I think that over the coming years we won’t need to spend a whole interview talking about diversity because we'll have made such great strides,” she proclaims. “I'm proud of what some really big companies have started to achieve and I want McAfee to be known as a trailblazer in this space.”


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Charlotte Trueman

Charlotte is Staff Writer at IDG Connect. She is particularly interested in the impact technology will have on the future of work and promoting gender diversity throughout the tech industry.

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