In the lead up to International Women’s Day 2019 this Friday 8 March, we’ve garnered the opinions of a few of our favourite contributors on how the IT industry can attract more women in 2019 and then what will be required to ensure that women have the opportunity to achieve senior leadership roles in the industry.
Laura Doonin, Director, Moustache Republic
“I am privileged to be a woman in technology at a time when the right conversations are happening. Women are taking a stand to move towards equality and change is in the air but the lack of female leadership is a real thing. The speed of technology and digital innovation is not slowing down and there is a greater need now more than ever before for leaders with strong emotional intelligence to be in positions of power to ensure ethical business practice. I believe women in the tech industry don’t need to be coders. I am in no way a data scientist, but if we understand technology and it’s intended purpose and are strategic then now is the time for a “feminine” type of leadership – one that is thoughtful, collaborative, and inclusive.”
Lara Pascoe, Regional Marketing Lead, Cohesity
“Inspiring a new generation of women to learn computer science empowers female entrepreneurs and employees to come up with unique solutions to new problems. Computer science is a growing field, one in which we desperately need more top talent. It is one in which women can’t be left behind. To start at the grassroots level, there needs to be a focus on engaging women in STEM courses and education, teaching them how to code and apply computer engineering practises. We are seeing a lot more education, support and ‘women in tech’ initiatives around the world and I think it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing some positive change.”
Shannon Campbell, Senior Security Specialist, CQR Consulting
“Born in the 60s the term “Information technology” applied to the amazing ability to store and index data in place. The focus switched to the evolving IT space where coding created capability and then hackers broke the code. Today, this coding and the hacking focus and stigma of sitting behind a desk staring at a computer all day is what girls believe “being in IT” is all about.
“My version of IT is much wider, sexier and much more involved than coding and hacking. The “IT” space has evolved rapidly. We have the world at our fingertips, we are interconnected and it is an essential enabler of business. Do we need to change the name of IT to something more representative of today to inspire?
“By changing the name, can we reach a whole new generation of girls and young women who want to be communicators, problem solvers and global entrepreneurs in an integrated corporate environment? Can we help companies build empires, market goods all over the world, secure secrets, create effective and efficient human processes to support this critical enabler. This new world view must be mentored in the workplace and marketed by women to schools and universities to capture the interest of the next generation and leave them with powerful images of the possible.
“Real life stories from real women in “IT” will really help in explaining what was the outcome that was achieved by my contribution. One day I can be reviewing a corporate network to assist executives with a wholistic view of people, process and systems to support decision making, smart investments and company growth, the next day assessing the complex business and information communication requirements of a fully integrated jet using satellite communications, airport ground systems, people and process or helping deliver a secure and manageable data store assist in the management and safety of women in hiding from abusive partners.
“This approach could shape the education pathway where Information communication technology skills are seen in multiple streams (not just seen as STEM), align with business and personal goals and enable girls and young women to visualise outcomes much bigger than coding and hacking. The success of the integrated corporate environment requires a wholistic approach to business (including computers, risk, security, people). You can be a master of one or generalist.
“It’s not just “IT”, it’s not just for coders and hackers. There a real skills shortage in information communication technology corporate integration experts. It’s about business goals, communication, risk, security and money at all levels of business.”
Carmen Culina, Head of Product, Certus 3
“According to some studies, five percent or fewer of the managers in the tech industry are female, and this is to everyone’s detriment. We need a greater sense of personal accountability for this situation from corporate leaders and managers responsible for hiring and promotion. STEM skills education may go part way in improving participation, but it won’t solve the problems inside science and technology companies that prevent women from getting into the executive pipeline and ultimately CEO position.”
Nicole Stirling, Director, Marketing, Asia Pacific & Japan, Acquia
“There’s a huge opportunity for women to bring their unique upbringing, skills and personality to the technology community. Right now, women represent roughly 17 per cent of the Drupal community, which far exceeds representation in open source of 1.5 per cent, but it’s still too low. The open source community creates connection, learning, employment and leadership opportunity. If you’re even remotely curious in what’s involved in being a Drupalist, ask to shadow a developer for a week or sign up for a computer science course. I also recommend taking an active role in your own personal career. Don’t rely on your employer to challenge or train you. Join a developer or Girls in Tech community and get involved, be outspoken. Learn what others are doing and take their experiences into any networking you do.”
Tori Starkey, General Manager – Marketing, Ricoh Australia
“I believe that inclusion and diversity is the single biggest challenge facing our industry. In particular, diversity of thinking. We are continually seeing that teams that are cognitively diverse and have psychological safety are the best performing, yet often female leaders in particular are deemed to have limited “leadership capability” or aren’t a good “cultural fit” if they have a different leadership style and way of thinking to the norm. This leaves a lot of potential on the table in terms of innovation, creative thinking and problem solving.
“From a marketing perspective diversity also enables us to better align and understand our customers to design experiences and solutions that create value. If we don’t actively address inclusion as well as diversity, we will never address the talent pipeline issue in one of our fastest growing industries.”
Vivienne Horsfall, ANZ Marketing Manager, Ping Identity
“Attracting women into IT starts from the grass roots. Changing the perception of STEM programs in school is paramount. Programs must be inspirational, relevant and capture the imagination while evoking an intrinsic ‘coolness’. Providing influential female role models and mentors is extremely powerful as girls can project their future self.
“Getting excited about the application of STEM in the real world is an important element to capture their imagination. These experiences must be relevant to the different development stages to have greater appeal. For example, the younger girls tend to want to have fun so an excursion to a theme park working alongside engineers to understand the design and technology of building a rollercoaster is appealing. As they mature there tends to be increased consciousness of the world around them so investigating technologies that are saving the world – cleaning water supplies and our oceans becomes more relevant and finally playing with the technologies that are changing our lives such as robotics & AI.
“The workplace itself is changing and as more companies embrace and honour their mantra and truly understand the benefits of a diverse workforce, women will feel valued and the domino effect will prevail.”
Petra Smith, Virtual Security Consultant, Aura Information Security
“The cybersecurity skills shortage is approaching three million people globally but less than 20 per cent of the current workforce in the industry are women. This comes at a time when analysis from AustCyber suggests that a shortage in Australia’s cyber security workforce may be costing the country more than $400 million in lost revenue and salaries and predicting that we may need 17,600 more cyber security workers by 2026.
“Diverse teams are better at solving problems and in an industry that’s all about solving complex problems, the lack of diversity is another business risk. So how do we solve the problem of gender inequality in technology? Representation matters. Women and gender minorities need to see people like them succeeding. It isn’t enough to interest young women to enter the industry. We also need to break down the barriers that keep women from advancing and becoming tomorrow’s role models. I feel incredibly fortunate that my job at Aura Information Security gives me opportunities to inspire women at the start of their tech careers to get into information security by sharing my experience.”
Joanne Wong, Senior Regional Marketing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan, LogRhythm
“While we’ve made good progress in improving gender equity in the workplace, there’s still a long way ahead towards achieving greater gender diversity in our technology talent pool. To help strike the balance, we will need to rally both organisations and individuals. From an organisational level, companies will have to set the stage to help women acquire tech-related skills. These organisations can pave the way for women to either shift their careers or develop a hybrid skillset, marrying their current skills with technology. For example, a finance manager can learn analytics which maybe relevant for fintech companies.
“On the individual level, it is important for women to adopt a mindset of lifelong learning and constantly upskill to stay relevant. In a fast-moving environment where organisations are going digital, cybersecurity know-how is becoming an increasingly vital skillset for any employee. Women who are willing to learn this skill will be able to get an edge over the others and in fact, play a significant role to help the company grow.
“Gender fairness at the workplace is a big ambition but definitely one that is achievable. As a cybersecurity professional, I believe technology will be the heart of some of the biggest changes in the next decade. Artificial Intelligence will be a huge enabler but we will still need irreplaceable abilities such as human instinct and experience to help us discern false positives from true cyber incidents. Women will be able to harness their ‘women’s intuition’ by giving a different perspective based on their life experiences and wisdom. It is those who are able to leverage both technology and personal skill sets that will truly stand out from the crowd.”
Barbara Kay, Senior Director of Security Product Marketing, ExtraHop
“The need for both male and female cybersecurity professionals creates a great, reasonably level playing field. Today’s youth are growing up surrounded and buffeted by security and privacy concerns. Using tools like Khan Academy and code.org, anyone can get more comfortable with the technical components and then layer on understanding of the security concepts. Gaining a certification in security is also a way to establish credibility – and frankly this space is starved for people. Bring your curiosity and you will find more environments using tools and automation to facilitate effective workflows and an environment that enhances skill development on the job. When it comes to cybersecurity, learning never stops for both men and women.”
Corryn Webb, Talent Lead, Veritec
“Diversity, fairness and respect are fundamental values of Veritec and they support our goal to encourage more women to join the IT industry. One of many initiatives we have is the recent launch of the Veritec Impressive Women group, a forum to celebrate inclusion and one that takes inspiration from female leaders in the industry who share their own journeys, conduct workshops and develop actions to encourage others to join the IT Industry and support progression. Our dedication to diversity is exemplified with our very own Women in Information and Communication Champion of Change who is our CEO, Keiran Mott.”
Claudia Pirko, BlackLine
“Over the last 20 years I have seen organisations trying to grapple with encouraging more women into the IT industry. I don’t think this is a quick fix that can be changed overnight or by simply enforcing women quotas. It requires a much more robust approach starting all the way from primary school and then through high school and on to university, and then, of course, as women consider their first job placement.
“Women (and men) for that matter need to see more diversity in their peers and management and then accepting and supporting women in IT and in IT leadership will become more of the standard and norm.
“I know for me personally when I started my Computing Science Degree in 1998 it was very daunting as a female as at least 90 percent of my colleagues back then were men.”
Barbara Staruk, Managing Director, Product and Development, Tribal Group
“One of the key factors in driving more women into IT is to get to a position where it is not exceptional. My parents were both developers, having gone to the same technical university. They worked as developers at the same company for many years when I was young. In my mind, there was no difference in the my mother and my father. Women literally played the same role as men. This is the environment that we need to re-create – where women in an IT role is to be expected and normalised. This happens by the small number of women who are currently in these roles creating spaces to show the younger generations that is not only possible, but ‘normal’. This can happen through interactions in primary school, mentorship or just through promotion on social media
“Another factor in this is also not creating separation earlier in life. A part of normalising women’s role in technology is normalising girls roles in the classroom. If young girls are given the same expectations in terms of interest and aptitude for STEM learning, the outcomes of more interested in STEM will follow.
“Moving women into senior roles in IT is also another step on the same process. Organisations need to be flexible to the demands of family and the realities of working parenthood. Tribal has a strong ethos in flexibility, this must be present in every organisation to ensure that it is a better option for a woman and mother to continue to progress in their roles while managing a family. As technology evolves, the IT industry has every capability to offer the flexibility to encourage women to balance progression in work and family responsibilities.
“And…one that is very important….we must remember that many roles in technology are actually simply business roles. There is an incorrect conception that one must be a ‘technologist’ to work in a technology company. But, we must remember that much of what powers technology are business roles: project management, finance, consulting services, etc. For those who aren’t ‘technology’ interested, there are still many roles in technology.”