Being a women in technology and being appointed Head of Diversity and Inclusion at hipages this year, I feel I need to bring a voice to the lack of women in digital positions.
hipages have recently launched an annual scholarship program for women studying STEM subjects as an initiative to help with the pipeline issue. This scholarship is one of many of the steps we are taking to ensure that we can move the 31% of women in digital jobs to 50%.
I am very passionate about this topic since I know what it feels like to be a Chinese female engineer in a technology company. It can be quite overwhelming at times; talking about technology in a room filled with men, who have all studied Computer Science.
The following tips are applicable to any women in any field.
Importance of role models, sharing stories, networking and mentors
Late last year, I attended the Sydney launch for Women in Digital, a meetup to empower women in their digital careers. CTO of Newscorp, Alisa Bowengave a talk about 12 lessons she learnt in her career. I was deeply inspired after hearing about her journey to becoming CTO even though she did not start her career being a woman in technology. Who knows? Perhaps I could be a CTO one day. I would have never thought this career path could be a possibility for myself before that night. Tahnee, organiser of WID touched on the importance of women having role models and the support we should give one another. My advice? Find out who your role models are and aspire to be like them.
I went for a coffee with one of our female mobile engineers a couple of months back. She is the only female mobile engineer in our team. I don’t normally work with her but thought it might be nice to reach out since I often see her with her head down quietly coding away. We were chatting about how we got into our respective fields and it was only during that chat, I found out that one of my blog posts inspired her to work for us. For me, this was extremely humbling feedback. Sometimes you don’t know who you can inspire. You may think your experience is ordinary, non-unique but if you don’t share it, you will never know. Sharing is caring.
I can’t stress enough the importance of networking. When I was first appointed Head of Diversity and Inclusion, having only engineering knowledge, I had no idea where to start my D&I research. My manager, Jodette suggested that I reach out and network with others in the Diversity and Inclusion space. Although I consider myself an extrovert, networking is definitely not my strong suit. But I am glad I listened to her advice. The moment I tried to organise casual meet and greets with others in the industry, I was in amongst the D&I managers at companies like Deloitte, Diversity Council, EY and Allianz and PwC just to name a few. They’ve all been extremely friendly, sharing their learnings from initiatives they’ve implemented in the past.
During one of DAWN and Westpac’s Conversations for Diverse Leadership, one of the Westpac employees commended Westpac’s internal mentor and mentee program. The program is a fantastic idea! I believe as each generation passes, we outsmart the previous. We become wiser with experience. Having a mentor can make a huge difference. I was very lucky to have many engineering mentors in my life.
From the above incidents, I hope you get a sense of how important it is for women to be there for each other in any industry/community.
The stress of being a professional and being a mother
I’ve heard many women my age confess that they want children but are not ready to give up their career. The more research I have done for gender diversity, the more I realise, the two doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can have a child and keep your career! Organisations and businesses just need to be more aware of the flexibility policies put in place to allow for women returning from maternity leave.
Break away from stereotypes
I never used to notice these things in TV ads but after studying about unconscious bias, the most recent TAFE ‘Be Ambitious’ ad annoys me. The have subconsciously placed biases in their ad by having a male appear when they show they have ‘game designer’ courses and a female appears when you want to become a ‘makeup artist’. Having said that, I must commend them for choosing a very diverse cast.
One of my diversity idols, Ming Long, who worked with the Property Council of Australia and the Human Rights Commission to establish Male Champions of Change, stated at the World Women Summit 2016, that we need to break away from stereotypical roles. Why should there be an awkward silence when a man says he is a ‘stay-at-home dad’? Why should we think of women as nurses and men as surgeons or software engineers?
Although this blog post is titled ‘Women in Technology’, it’s just as important acknowledging the struggles men have in their lives. Men are looked upon as the strong and dominant character in a family; show no weakness or tears. We are all humans with emotions, why can’t men talk about their problems? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, on average, 1 in 8 men will have depression and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. Depression is a high risk factor for suicide and, in Australia, there are approximately 2,500 suicides each year. 75% are by men — with an average of 6 men taking their lives every single day! Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 54, significantly exceeding the national road toll. Our focus should be on gender equality.
It also important to keep the conversations going and voice out when you see incidents which are unfair or discriminating. By talking about it, the more awareness we raise. I particularly like ANZ’s take on creating a more equal world through a series of campaigns; one involving children speaking about pocket money. A simple video like this can help increase awareness.
Please find a list of support groups and meetups for Women in Digital/Technology jobs. My challenge to you is to reach out, network, share your stories and become a role model for other women in your community.