Women in Tech: Challenges and Opportunities
Posted 8 March 2019, Australia
Written by: Jessica Mensforth, Project Officer, ADVAM
As the world continues to forge a more gender-balanced world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Held on 8th March, this year’s IWD campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.1
The day has been celebrated for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Europe. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively and the significance of #BalanceforBetter is firmly on the agenda with focused initiatives around the world.
ADVAM has always been an inclusive employer which stretches far beyond just gender, but with IWD approaching, we gathered some of our great women at ADVAM to share their experiences of what it’s like to be a woman in a technology environment. What made them choose this path, what have been the challenges and what advice would they give to young women who want a career in technology. As well as telling their stories, the event presented a unique opportunity to connect and form a deeper bond through a better understanding of each other and how paths travelled led to a career within the technology industry.
The women who took part have a broad range of experiences and backgrounds, from length of service within the industry ranging from 2 to 20+ years. Roles represented on the day included Developers, Engineers, Strategic Business Analyst, Test & QA Analyst and Computer Scientists.
The group discussed trends and looked at some interesting statistics including labour force participation, where women comprise roughly 47% of all employees in Australia, with IT jobs held by women sitting around 25%.2 Although this may seem a small percentage, this has definitely grown over the last 10 years, with one of the team commenting that at University the ratio of males to females was 7:1 in the technology-based subjects.
The attraction towards starting a career in the technology industry varied significantly for the group. The main contributors in pursuing a career in technology included continuous stimulation from analysing data and problem solving. While some were seeking longevity of a sustainable work life balance, including competitive salaries, other factors identified included the demand for the growing industry and staying young at heart with creating and keeping up with cutting edge technology. Interestingly, the lack of women within the technology industry in the past was a draw card to optimise the development opportunities on offer for the minority group of women at the time.
Where participation rates are on the rise for women entering the technology industry, it’s recorded that there’s been a big increase over the last 25 years with 18-20% of all engineering students being women.3 Looking into the future comes hope that the number of scientific prizes awarded to women will also increase from 15% to a greater amount of recognition across the board.
The main challenges that the women had faced, is not about being a woman in the technology industry specifically, but more around being a working Mother. The group felt that (at least where they have worked), that levels of pay are equal and work is awarded on merit, but there is still an insecurity around having to prove yourself even more if you are a working Mother. This can be around the perception of commitment to the role or the fact that a woman of a certain age may be taking time off to have children. The team didn’t necessarily feel this at ADVAM and appreciate the ability to have flexible working, but the pressure remains for women within any industry.
When it comes to leadership, whilst the world already sees women leaders such as Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, Ginni Rometty, Chair, President and CEO of IBM and Melanie Perkins, Co-founder & CEO of the disruptive online design and publishing tool, Canva, the group would like to see more women in senior leadership roles. The point further highlighted by a global statistic where women lead 13 of 195 countries.4 IWD continues to bring people together to provoke thought and ignite discussion around ways on how we can all achieve a #BalanceforBetter.
In the spirit of IWD 2019, ADVAM’s community of women and men who wholeheartedly believe that balance is better, will celebrate the achievements of women (and men) in technology, knowing that when women in technology are encouraged and nurtured, we all win.
To all women who are interested to work in technology, our team of women had the following advice:
- Believe in yourself. If you love technology, do it. You will have peers who can help you.
- Stay focused on what you want to achieve.
- Technology is a great way to make things happen. Be excited and passionate about it.
- Go for it if you love problem solving or critical thinking.
- Society is changing and government is changing, down the line things will be easier. More companies are including policies of equal parental leave and laws are in place to protect against discrimination, whether it is gender or other factors such as race or religion.
- No need to feel insecure as things are changing at a much faster rate than ever before. Nothing is stopping women exceling in technology or any industry for that matter.