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Women in tech: It’s simple – it’s just not easy

Today, on International Women’s Day, Talent will be joining millions of individuals and companies around the world as they celebrate and support women. After a year in which #MeToo and #TimesUp were unleashed and a wave of action rippled around the world, it is a good moment to pause and reflect on the status of women at work. As a leader in the tech and IT space, it’s also a good moment to take a look at some of the hard truths about women in tech.

International Womens Day

In tech, diversity is a matter of dollars and cents as much as ethics and progress.

Diversity drives innovation and growth; in Australian society, we believe that to be true. However, it seems to be unclear on just how powerful it is as an economic driver. The UN has estimated that global annual GDP would be boosted by US$28 trillion by 2025 if women played the same role to men in the global workforce.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO and author of Lean In, summed up the diversity issue for tech companies succinctly:

‘Endless data show that diverse teams make better decisions. We are building products that people with very diverse backgrounds use, and I think we all want our company makeup to reflect the makeup of the people who use our products. That’s not true of any industry really, and we have a long way to go.’

  • Sheryl Sandberg, USA Today, August 2014

From our own experience at Talent, we recognise the truth in Ms. Sandberg’s words; diverse teams result in products suited to diverse audiences. Whether it’s about the global economy, Facebook or a tech startup, the core principle remains the same: diversity at work is as much a matter of dollars and cents as much as it is a matter of justice, progress and equality.

 

The challenges before us are still significant. Progress has been made – but not enough.

Despite the commercial imperatives to change, tech and IT remains a difficult space for women to navigate in Australia. Widespread perceptions of the ‘boy’s club’ of geeky male engineers are slowly fading, but still discernible. Google’s now-infamous 2017 memo from James Damore, in which Damore argued that women are less biologically and intellectually fit to be tech engineers, was a damning global reminder of the attitudes to women that still poison the tech sphere.

Closer to home, last year The Guardian reported that only 16% of Australia’s STEM graduates are women. Only 7% of our engineers are women. While 32% of men hit the upper income bracket, 12% of women do the same. These numbers are hard evidence of the challenge before us.

If Australia’s tech sphere is to continue growing, neither the attitudes so spitefully articulated in the Damore memo or the numbers being reported from Australia’s STEM sphere can be considered acceptable or tolerated any longer. There is no ambiguity – we need more women in tech, and we need them now.

The way forward is simple, if not easy.

At Talent, we are working to develop and maintain a progressive, respectful and vibrant culture, including working towards true gender diversity. The success of Talent depends on attracting and retaining talented women in tech.

This requires elbow grease and investment to put the day-to-day practices of diversity into action, such as flexible working practices, identifying and fixing unconscious bias, and addressing the pay gap.

It also requires understanding and accepting big concepts like equality, respect and inclusivity, and to enforce unwavering rejection of outdated stereotypes and stagnant attitudes within Talent.

Talent intends to ensure that it is evolving with the standards of the outside world – which, thankfully, is changing fast.