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With 29% of tech jobs held by women and female representation growing by only 0.75% on average each year in Australia, the tech industry continues to be highly male-dominated. However, research demonstrates that inclusive teams outperform non-inclusive teams by an average of 50% and female leadership adds 6.6% to the market value of ASX companies. Companies with a diverse workforce bring together unique perspectives and experiences, aiding innovation by curbing homogenous group thinking and promoting better decision-making.
Creating a welcoming and inclusive work culture encourages talented people to want to join an organisation and stay. This begs the question as to why significant gender disparity continues in the tech sector when there are clear organisational benefits and outcomes. Organisations that prioritise diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) see notable boosts in productivity, profitability, and innovation. It’s not merely a debate about fairness, but the education of how true diversity can deliver meaningful employee engagement together with enhanced organisational performance.
Speaking as a woman in tech, and in my role as Experteq’s Chief People Officer (CPO), I believe that we need to educate organisations to promote, empower women, and leverage gender equity in the workplace and embolden them to affect change. But how can we do this?
Why are there fewer women in tech than in other industries?
To start with, not many women choose to study IT and prepare for a career in the tech sector: the Australian Computer Society (ACS) has found only 20% of Australian IT graduates are women. Compound that with an attrition rate for female technology workers that are double that of men, and this presents significant talent pipeline challenges for businesses.
It’s true that jobs in the tech sector can be demanding regardless of gender. For instance, depending on the specific role, employees may be expected to work past standard business hours; to respond to a significant incident such as a cyberattack, or perform necessary cutovers, upgrades, urgent fixes, and more to ensure IT systems remain available 24/7.
However, for women, who continue to often bear more household and family responsibilities, working non-standard hours and being physically away from the home for long periods may not be possible. As a result, women may have reduced visibility in the organisation – and this, in turn, could lead to them being passed over for leadership opportunities.
The impact of broader societal gender norms and stereotypes is evident even before we join the workforce, which is why early intervention at school level is required to break down societal gender stereotypes and to encourage and provide access for girls to select STEM subjects. The education sector should partner with organisations early on to incentivise greater choice of STEM-related careers which would have a significant impact on this pipeline shortfall.
Promoting DEI to curb the loss of talent
Organisations must actively prioritise DEI policies in order to prevent talent loss. However, it’s crucial that this shift is genuine and authentic such that policies, practices and programs become embedded and spur cultural change.
Greater access to flexible work arrangements, particularly at senior management levels, is one example, as well as actively promoting a shift away from the old-school notion that time spent and seen in the office equates to success. Promotions should be based on the outcomes and value individuals bring to the company. Unfortunately, some organisations still assume antiquated ideas.
This does not pose a barrier to us at Experteq. Hybrid work is embedded into our culture and Experteq offers adaptable work arrangements tailored to specific position requirements. My personal experience is a great example of this. I currently work four days per week and to my knowledge, not many CPOs have the opportunity to perform their role in such an arrangement.
Experteq actively anticipates and addresses the concerns of women in the tech industry, as evidenced by the recent promotion of a female employee to a managerial role. This has resulted in 50% representation of women leaders at that level.
We continue to create a more diverse and equitable workplace through programs like our new internship program and the Women Rising initiative, which aid in professional development and overcoming institutional barriers.
At Experteq, we uphold the belief that every appointment is based on merit aligned to market remuneration, regardless of gender, and we focus on promoting career progression at every level. We view DEI as more than just lofty ideals – DEI is necessary practice that will lead the tech sector to greater heights.
WGEA (Workplace Gender Equality Agency)
ACS (Australian Computer Society) Australia’s Digital Pulse 2021