International Women’s Day: Challenging Data Center Perceptions
By: Aashna Puri
As a woman working in the data center industry, International Women’s Day is a great time to reflect on representation in our sector and what we need to do to address these shortcomings. According to the Uptime Institute, more than three-quarters of operators (77 percent) report that they employ around 10 percent women or less, unchanged since 2018. What’s more, one-fifth of respondents (20 percent) still do not employ any women at all in their design and operations teams. These figures are particularly striking in light of the skills shortage that the data centre industry is currently experiencing. It goes without saying that this is a massive limitation on the potential scale of who could be qualified to work in the sector.
As we collectively work toward improving these stats through targeted recruitment efforts, as well as university partnerships – such as CyrusOne’s partnership with UTC Heathrow – what is also crucial is to improve overall understanding, perception, and awareness of the data center industry. This will ensure that the sector is among those that potential recruits consider as they explore career options and opportunities.
As evidence, when I look around at my colleagues at CyrusOne, one of the things that we have in common is that we all stumbled upon a career in this industry by accident! Personally, the reason that this was the case was due to my inaccurate perception of this industry being traditional and conservative – when in fact it is extremely multi-faceted, addressing important societal issues. I am now so thankful that I ended up in this sector as I truly would not want to work anywhere else.
This in mind, I wanted to share some of my own findings and observations from this industry to address these misperceptions with the hope that more women will consider this as a valuable and fulfilling career option.
- The data center industry is often discussed in relation to real estate or engineering, when in reality it touches upon a wide array of areas. This resonated with me as I have diverse interests and a varied background that spans environmentalism, sociology, economics, and logistics. This industry has allowed me to draw upon all my passion areas and more. What’s more, this narrow definition of the data center industry has meant that many women in particular don’t see relevant opportunities for themselves. The true scope that a career in this sector provides is so much bigger and so much more meaningful, making it relevant for myriad backgrounds and demographics.
- Data centers are the back-bone of how we live and work today. Data centres enable the functioning of our modern societies from online shopping, entertainment and remote working, to more critical services across healthcare, finance and education. They are also important enablers of efficiency across multiple sectors; as an example, if banks decide to reduce their carbon footprint by outsourcing their servers, this would be supported by data centres. It’s critical that we have a diverse workforce to address these ongoing priorities.
- This industry presents the perfect opportunity for anyone who is mission-driven. Data is growing at an unprecedented rate as we become increasingly reliant on technology to live, entertain, communicate, and work. This industry is committed to meeting this demand to allow everyone to live their best lives while doing so in a way that is sustainable and additive to communities where data centers are located. These are real societal challenges and opportunities that we are addressing and as a result, it is a career in which you can make a difference. In order to ensure that we are being as innovative and creative in solving these challenges, it’s essential that we have diverse minds and perspectives – and this includes a better representation of women.
As we look ahead, it’s important that we continue to battle these misperceptions head-on. It’s clear that the untapped potential of the female workforce is staggering. The industry has acknowledged this diversity gap and lack of female representation, which is an important step. Now, we must come together to address it.