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IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

In a world increasingly driven by technological innovation, the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are more crucial than ever. 

Yet, despite their growing impact, women remain underrepresented in these fields.  On this International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024, we not only celebrate the remarkable achievements of women in tech and STEM, but also acknowledge the work still needed to achieve true gender equality in these sectors.

To understand more about IWD and the future of women in technology, we’ve gathered insights from top executives at leading tech companies. Here’s what they shared:

Ashe-Lee Jegathesan – Non-Executive Director and Anna Siassios, Operations Manager, Access4

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM
Ashe-Lee Jegathesan
IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM
Anna Siassios

It’s incredibly heartening to see the collective commitment that now exists, to creating environments in which individuals, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or cultural background, can feel they belong and are respected, and that their contributions are valued.

But are we moving far enough and fast enough, or is there more we can do to open up opportunities for capable, ambitious women to progress up the ICT ranks?

In our opinion, the answer is yes. On top of supporting our employers’ formal DE&I programs and throwing our support behind networking and mentoring initiatives for women, those of us in senior leadership positions can, and should, take active steps to sponsor those in our teams and circles.

By that, we mean providing proactive support in the form of introductions to decision makers and opportunities to grow in knowledge and experience – think inviting sponsees to participate in stretch projects or act up in roles of greater responsibility and challenge. 

Men have always done this for one another in the world of work and done it very well.

Women? Not so much, in our experience. Whether it’s because we’re self-conscious or insecure about promoting our own interests and those of our associates, or because there haven’t been enough of us to do so effectively, up to now we’ve been a little backward in coming forward in this way.

But there’s no reason why that can’t change – and change it should. Resolving to become more visible, by speaking up for ourselves and the high calibre women in our teams and networks, will help break down the gender barrier and make it easier for women to avail themselves fully of the boundless opportunities our industry has to offer.  And encouraging our male colleagues in senior roles to become allies and sponsors will only amplify the effect.

Hazel Cromie, Head of People – Pacific, APAC, AVEVA

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

In my career journey, I’ve learnt some valuable lessons about how diversity, equity & Inclusion is best done. They are as follows:

  • For optimum results, it pays to listen to your workforce. It’s all too easy to assume we know what needs to be done but the truth is, we don’t always. Engaging with teams and minority groups within the workforce is the only way to gain a fulsome appreciation of the challenges that need to be addressed.
  • Best practice isn’t necessarily what your counterparts or competitors are doing. Find out what’s worked, or is working, for ahead-of-the-curve organisations outside your industry or sector and look for opportunities to replicate their programs and practices – modified if necessary – in your own workplace.  
  • And lastly, don’t be afraid to enlist expert assistance. Diversity and Inclusion specialists can help determine where your investment and efforts are best focused and make it easier for you to transform good intentions into measurable improvements.

Inclusion isn’t about the best gimmick or initiative. It’s about ensuring that all persons have the opportunity to be heard and feel comfortable and empowered to speak up. Inclusion is one of the most powerful tools for any business but particularly a global business like AVEVA servicing stakeholders across the world and across industries. Inclusion brings with it diversity of thought, experience and expertise gives people and teams the ability to problem solve and innovate in a way that transcends or overcomes any issue or opportunity. 

Rosie Cairnes, Regional Vice President Australia and New Zealand, BlackLine

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

By the Australian Computer Society’s reckoning, women hold just 18 per cent of CEO roles and 22 per cent of board seats.

I believe coaching and mentoring is one of the keys to redressing that gender imbalance; to empowering women and giving them the confidence they need to fulfil their potential in this dynamic and well remunerated industry.

Providing them with access to an environment where they can safely express what’s going on for them, and what their challenges are, is vital. So is the opportunity to see role models – other women who’ve overcome the obstacles and worked their way up the ranks.  

Nataly Kremer, Chief Product Officer, Check Point Software Technologies

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

Why should including more women in the cyber workforce be such a pressing imperative, you may ask? 

First and foremost, because diversity fosters innovation. In a field as ultra-dynamic as cybersecurity, the more creativity and innovation we have, the better. Fresh perspectives and problem-solving approaches are essential, if we are to stay a step or several ahead of cyber adversaries, whose adaptability and ingenuity is almost boundless.

Secondly, because the industry can only close the talent shortage by actively attracting and training more women to these jobs.

And thirdly, because too few girls and young women are opting to pursue careers in STEM related fields. There is an oft-quoted saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and in my experience, it holds true. Seeing women succeeding in cyber security and holding senior positions in the sector sets a powerful example; showing the next generation what’s possible and inspiring them to set their sights high.

Carmen Ogilvie, Senior Marketing Manager Data Army

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

Inspiring inclusion is leading by example – doing and not just saying it – by offering equal access to opportunities and resources for all, including those who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised. When you really believe in inclusivity, and demonstrate it through actions, it can inspire others and other organisations to do the same.

In order to encourage more women to enter the IT industry and balance ratios, female scholarships, educational programs and initiatives promoting STEM fields and visibility campaigns to highlight women in data professions can inspire the younger generation. 

In addition, other ways that the industry can further promote female inclusion is through wider implementation of diversity and inclusion training in workplaces, inclusive recruitment practices, gender equality practices, as well as female empowerment and leadership development programs and mentorship programs.

Natalie Barrett, Vice President of Customer Success and Experience APAC, Dynatrace

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

My experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior leader has shown me – repeatedly – that having people with different backgrounds, strengths and perspectives on the team and at the leadership table invariably leads to smarter decision making and better outcomes. That a growing body of research bears this out is hardly surprising.

In the male dominated ICT world where I’ve worked for the past 12 years, we still have a considerable gender imbalance to address.   To even up the scales, we need to ensure we’re attracting and including motivated, capable women. And we need to do that not in a piecemeal fashion but strategically and systemically, at all levels and in all aspects of operations.

From technical consulting and support, through to sales, marketing, account management and customer success, there should be opportunities aplenty for women to contribute and succeed.

As influencers and decision makers in the sector, we need to keep trying even harder, to open up those opportunities: to identify the high calibre candidates, funnel them into structured talent pipelines and pull out all the stops to enable them to thrive.

That’s been my personal mission since attaining a leadership role, and that’s why, from my perspective, the theme of International Women’s Day 2024, ‘inspiring inclusion’ could not be more apposite.

Sarah Cleveland, Senior Strategic Advisor – Public Sector, ExtraHop

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

Inclusion is understanding that all individuals have value and gifts to bring to the problem set. Teams are richer if those gifts are diverse coming from people with different experiences. It’s critical to not judge a book by its cover. Give opportunity to the quiet one, the small one, the goofy one – if you don’t you may miss the chance to put together the “Dream Team”. Sometimes potential is not immediately obvious and it requires you to put aside your first impression.

Within the complex landscape of implementing cybersecurity and creating innovative technology, diverse and inclusive teams will provide you the solution. My career in the military benefited from multi-disciplinary teams with multiple skill sets and it translates easily to industry.  Investing in great people is more important than investing in great technology. Always be on the lookout, because you may find those great people in surprising places. People first – mission always.

Laura Thomson, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Fastly

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

What’s good for women employees is also good for organisations, and the IT sector at large. Difficult problems are solved best when smart people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds come together to do the best work of their lives.  Women need to be part of that process.

I’m also a firm believer in sponsorship: bringing motivated, high performing individuals together with senior executives who can connect them with opportunities to stretch themselves on career advancing projects and tasks.

Having been the beneficiary of that sort of targeted support myself at various stages in my career – I actually obtained my first board role via a sponsor who put my name forward – I know how powerful it can be. 

That’s why I’ll continue to pay it forward; helping a handful of up-and-coming women become better versions of themselves professionally. 

Joanne Wong, Interim Chief Marketing Officer, LogRhythm

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

I firmly believe that in cybersecurity and technology, where innovation and problem-solving are at the forefront, the inclusion of diverse perspectives is essential to effectively navigate complex challenges. Historically, these fields have predominantly been occupied by specific demographics, which has posed significant barriers for women and other underrepresented groups. By embracing inclusion, we not only dismantle these disparities but also unleash the immense potential of diverse talent, resulting in the development of more innovative solutions and robust cybersecurity measures.

In recent years, I’ve observed a notable evolution in the tech industry towards recognising the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Companies are more aware of the significant impact that diverse perspectives can have on innovation and decision-making processes. However, achieving true inclusivity extends beyond merely meeting diversity quotas; it requires a comprehensive commitment to addressing systemic barriers and biases.

One concrete step that companies can take is implementing inclusive leadership development programs. These programs should provide training and resources to equip leaders with the skills necessary to foster inclusive environments, recognise unconscious biases, and promote diversity within their teams. Furthermore, companies can establish mentorship and sponsorship programs aimed at supporting underrepresented employees. Pairing junior employees with senior mentors or sponsors who can provide guidance, advocacy, and opportunities for advancement can help break down barriers and facilitate career progression.

Another crucial aspect is creating a culture of belonging where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute. This involves promoting open dialogue, actively soliciting feedback from diverse voices, and addressing issues of discrimination or bias promptly and transparently.  Additionally, companies can prioritise diversity in their supplier and vendor relationships by seeking out partnerships with diverse-owned businesses. By diversifying their supply chains, companies not only support economic inclusion but also foster a more diverse ecosystem.

Ultimately, it’s about creating an ecosystem where diversity thrives, and every individual has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Jayne Lewis, Senior Director Marketing – Asia Pacific and Japan, Ping Identity

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

Workplaces cultures rarely change overnight. Typically, it’s a matter of chipping away, making small inroads that, over time, add up to significant progress. If you’d like your workplace to be more inclusive towards women, then help drive that change. Raise awareness of diversity and inclusion programs if there are any in place, advocate for them if they’re not yet a thing, participate in them and encourage your colleagues, both female and male, to do likewise. Your efforts won’t just help yourself – you’ll be doing all the women following in your footsteps a favour too.

Vanessa Spendlove, HR Business Partner, Tecala Group

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

In envisioning a more inclusive Australia, my focus shifts beyond gender binaries, acknowledging and including non-binary and gender-non-conforming individuals. The goal is to increase the representation of women in leadership roles across diverse sectors, with a specific spotlight on STEM fields. This involves implementing concrete measures such as quotas, mentorship opportunities, and support programs for women entrepreneurs – emphasising a holistic approach to gender inclusion.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) published base salary and total remuneration median gender pay gaps for private sector employers in Australia with 100 or more employees on 27 February 2024. Amidst over 5000 firms, our commitment to equality is a shining example as Tecala achieved a neutral gender pay gap well below the benchmark target. Recognising the role of the Australian government, I commend initiatives like Women in STEM and stress the need for continuous support. Interventions addressing gender pay gaps, equal pay for equal work, and incentives for women in traditionally male-dominated fields like STEM are crucial steps forward.

Michelle Liao, Channel and Distribution Manager, WatchGuard Technologies

IWD 2024: Amplifying the voices of women shaping tech and STEM

There’s an oft-quoted saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. In industries like IT that are heavily male dominated – women hold less than a third of the jobs in the Australian IT sector, according to 2021 research by the Australian Computer Society – early career women aren’t always spoilt for female role models. 

The dearth of women in more senior roles can make it difficult for new starters to see career paths for themselves, or to envisage themselves taking on positions that entail greater responsibility and challenge.

Actually seeing women taking centre stage, giving presentations and representing their organisations, as I now do whenever I get the chance, shows those coming up behind what’s possible.

Our industry offers an abundance of opportunities for women who want to build rewarding, well paid careers.

Being publicly visible and making our voices heard is a great way for those of us who’ve enjoyed the benefits to inspire others to explore the possibilities. 

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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