INNOVATION

Ways The Tech Industry In Australia Is Trying To Attract And Retain Females

We still have a long way to go but at least we’re doing better than the US.

01/04/2017 6:53 AM AEDT | Updated 10/05/2017 9:12 AM AEST
Girl Geek Academy
Sarah Moran, the CEO of Girl Geek Academy, said Australia is showing a desire to have more women in the tech industry but a lot more needs to be done before there is true equality.

The tech industry is still regarded as very much a 'boy's club' – with just 14 per cent of executive roles being held by women. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women make up 46.2 per cent of all employees, but in technology roles the percentage of women drops to between 28-31 per cent.

It's even worse in the U.S, where women hold 57 per cent of all jobs yet only 25 per cent of tech jobs.

But there is a belief that, in Australia, things are on the up-and-up –- mostly because tech leaders here actually 'want to' employ women.

Sarah Moran CEO of Girl Geek Academy told the Huffington Post Australia if enough was being done to attract women to tech companies then we'd have 50/50 representation here.

That's not the case. But, at least, we are moving forward.

Girl Geek Academy
The team at Girl Geek Academy, who are raising the profile of women in technology and trying to encourage young women to enter the industry.

"The good news is, in Australia, there is a desire to see us get to equal representation in tech companies. I believe a lot of effort is being done, as there is a push in to get to that point. We have to keep trying. But there is a good reason why our company is based in Melbourne and not Silicon Valley," Moran said.

"Tech in the US is incredibly male dominated and I've not seen any evidence about a desire to change. We spent 2016 evaluating whether to have our headquarters in Melbourne or San Francisco. My co-founder went to a number of tech companies and discovered there is an attitude that they really don't care about women's involvement. That's why we decided to keep our headquarters in Australia."

"When a tech company executive in the US was asked why they don't hire women he said, "We don't want to lower the bar." For an Australian, that statement is shocking, but when it comes to the US tech industry, most people agree!"

There are, of course, exceptions. Thoughtworks is a global tech company that prides itself on hiring at least 50 per cent females, as part of its commitment to improving diversity in the local technology industry.

Ange Ferguson, Group Managing Director, Asia Pacific, ThoughtWorks, told HuffPost Australia the real challenge in the tech industry is that of retention.

FangXiaNuo via Getty Images
Women are encouraged to look at tech as being an incredibly creative career.

"Retaining a brilliant and diverse workforce means creating inclusive workplaces that encourage, foster and actually embrace diversity. We've developed a number of ways that we help develop female technologists within our business -- from a focus on gender equality in recruitment to detailed gender remuneration analysis, internal policies and communities, and Women in Leadership development programs," Ferguson said.

"We've made a conscious effort to not only attract female technologists, but to create something unique and special that they want to evolve with for the long term."

Thoughtworks supports women through initiatives such as a Parents' Community and a Women's Network, as well as implementing a detailed bi-annual gender remuneration analysis as part of the company's pay review process.

Thoughtworks
Ange Ferguson from Thoughtworks wants to encourage women to look at the endless possibilities a career in tech can provide.

"I'd like to encourage women to think about the limitless possibilities that a tech career offers. Many people are unaware that technology is an enormously creative field, where collaborative approaches are common," Ferguson said.

"This lack of awareness often causes people to dismiss the idea of getting involved in tech. I believe we can do more to 'mythbust' and help people understand what a career in tech really looks like."

Moran said another issue is when people look at leaders such as Google, which has a staff made up of only 16 per cent of female engineers.

​​​​"So people think, 'Well, if Google can't hire more women, then how am I expected to?' But there are companies in Australia moving forward and I'd like to praise companies like the NAB, as they've increased the number of women in senior tech leadership roles from 18 per cent to 27 per cent in two years -- thanks to their world class Women in Technology program. So that's a great step forward," Moran said.


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