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Credit: Thought Catalog

Why career equity for women begins with allies at home and at work

While Australian business leaders have become increasingly aware of the benefits a diverse workforce can deliver in recent years, women remain under-represented at the senior and executive levels in organisations of all stripes and sizes.

This is particularly so in the ICT sector, where women comprise just 29 per cent of the total workforce, according to the Australian Computer Society’s Digital Pulse report 2021. On the gender front, we’re not exactly embracing equity – the theme of International Women’s Day 2023 – and at the leadership level, we’re a long way off. 

The majority of IT leaders and decision-makers are male, although an increasing number of women are advancing higher up the ranks, myself included. 

Performing the juggle

For the past four years, I’ve had the privilege of leading the regional sales team for process intelligence and automation technology vendor Nintex. The role is demanding and rewarding, as is my other ‘job’ – parenting my two beautiful children, aged six and two.     

Making a good fist of either of these roles would be well-nigh impossible, without the steadfast backing of a great partner who believes my career aspirations and ambitions are just as important as his own. 

It’s down to him that I’m able to undertake overnight trips every month and put in the long hours and late nights needed to clinch the deals that keep my team’s metrics healthy. He holds the fort at home when I’m on the road and willingly partakes in a 50:50 split of care when our children are off sick from day care and school, as little ones so frequently are.

Supporting male employees

We count ourselves fortunate that our employers afford us the flexibility to assume these caring responsibilities – the afternoon pick-ups and late starts when one of us is away and the unscheduled time off when an emergency strikes and it’s tricky to escape the office. Without their backing, it would be impossible for us to support one another and I couldn’t do the things I’m required to do as a female leader in a dynamic, fast-paced industry.

Unfortunately, many employees still don’t receive that employer support and therefore can’t pay it forward, to their partners and children. They’re not encouraged, or they’re tacitly discouraged, from shouldering their share of the domestic load. 

And women continue to pick up the slack, often at considerable cost to their personal wellbeing and careers. The result? The gender inequity we continue to see in the upper echelons of so many organisations.

Changing the game

How would I like to see things done differently? From the beginning, is the short answer. Make generous and more equitable parental leave available to both caregivers—regardless of gender—an unremarkable entitlement. This sends the signal to all employees that parenting in the earliest days isn’t a job restricted to just one person. Partners can do it too and should be afforded every opportunity to lean into their new role of parenthood and care giver.

Continue to enable employees to balance domestic and career responsibilities as their children or caregiver needs grow – with flexible and remote working arrangements and KPIs that measure achievements and outcomes, rather than long hours of attendance in the office – and, over time, you’ll create an environment and a culture in which gender equity and work life balance are more than mere aspirations or platitudes.

Such initiatives are more likely to become successfully embedded if they receive top-down support, from male and female leaders who walk the walk, prioritising important personal occasions and supporting their own partners to pursue meaningful careers. A big shout out here to Nintex’s APAC Vice President Christian Lucarelli, who regularly puts his own family first and is unfailingly empathetic and understanding when employees of all genders need to do the same!

Reaping the benefits

What’s good for employees is also very good for business. High-achieving teams don’t want to work for organisations where they’re not valued and supported. Provide them with opportunities to excel and to support their partners to do so too and they’ll reward you with loyalty while making a valuable impact to the business, every hour they’re on the job.

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Sarah Mainprize

Sarah Mainprize

Sarah Mainprize is an experienced SaaS sales leader who in her role as Regional Sales Leader at Nintex leads a team of team of talented account executives with a shared mission to improve the way people work through process intelligence and automation. She has more than ten years’ experience of working in the IT industry having previously held sales and business development positions with companies, including Hitachi Data Systems and ICON Software Solutions.

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