IWD 2021: Making the tech sector more diverse by making it relatable
Article by Cloudera A/NZ solutions engineering manager Renee Dvir.
Technology companies and IT are often seen as a boys club, with men sitting behind computer screens coding. To open the sector up and get more women involved, we must change that narrative and view those in the sector as problem solvers.
Gender diversity is still a problem in the Australian technology sector, the workforce is heavily dominated by men. However, for the industry to remain competitive on a global scale, diversity and inclusion need to be prioritised.
From an early age, girls are taught that building and engineering are for boys, and girls should focus on the arts - you only need to look around your local toy store to see which toys are marketed to boys compared to those for girls. I believe it’s from that point that we are discouraging girls to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and that needs to change.
When we get to university, the gender imbalance is clear. Only nine percent of women study STEM courses, compared to 35% of men. This could be different if we changed the way we viewed technology roles from an early age.
To get our future generations interested in technology, I am involved in the Tech Girls Movement Foundation. It is a competition for girls aged seven to 16 in Australia and New Zealand, and this year I am a coordinator of the competition at two Sydney schools. The program focuses on technology and how technology can solve problems. Solving problems is something we can all get behind and get passionate about, and the teams of girls work to find an answer for community problems with a technical solution.
The winner from last year created an app to help families with disabled children find their nearest disabled-friendly playground. The work the girls do in the competition shows them the power that technology solutions have to fix real world problems - it opens them up to the vast opportunities that working in the tech sector can offer.
They are also paired with mentors in the industry who give them access to real life, women working in tech role models. More work like this needs to be done from an early age to show girls that careers in technology are not just men sitting in dark rooms coding on a computer, but instead is focused on solving real world problems that truly can make a difference to people’s lives.
This message sometimes gets lost in the technical jargon. Solving problems is something women can relate to just as much, or sometimes, even more so than men. To get more diversity in our industry, we really need to talk about technology in more creative ways. While having the ability to explain deep technical insights is important, as an industry we also need more compelling stories that engage and inspire.
We need to explain the positive impact that technology is having on society, like the playground app I mentioned earlier. Another good example is the role data analytics tools are playing in the pandemic response. Data analytics technology is being used by healthcare providers to provide faster and more efficient real time data to help deliver more effective vaccine programs for patients. This is a story that we can all relate to.
Within the tech sector itself, the imbalance of gender diversity at the top of an organisation plays a role in how it attracts women and different ethnic groups who choose to study and pursue a career in the technology industry. It is vital that we address the diversity barrier within our organisations to show women there are prosperous careers waiting for them in our industry and they will flourish and be happy here too.
We know that creating gender equality will not be fixed overnight, but we need to realise it will take societal change within the technology sector to make it happen. We need to acknowledge that gender bias is prevalent in everything, including how we recruit.
It is important that we do more than just open the door to women, but actively invite women to the table instead of waiting for them to apply for vacant roles. What I learnt from the Tech Girls Movement - and in my career in general - is that women need to be asked to take part, and once they are tapped on the shoulder, the talent they have will be unleashed and will benefit the organisation.
International Women’s Day is a reminder that we in the technology sector need to play an active part in supporting women into our industry, and we need to be active and supportive from an early age. The results will mean we attract more women into our workplace, and we will encourage and grow our future workforce and leaders.
I entered the exciting field of data after a career in video tech, and despite coming from a different background, I knew the future will be built on data and I wanted to be a part of it. It has been exciting to work in an industry where data technology solves problems. Being a part of building the next enterprise data cloud platform means I am part of solving problems for a large range of different use cases. Every customer has a different story about how deriving insight from data can solve problems such as cybersecurity, predictive maintenance, IoT and lots more.
In the organisation I am part of, we have a strong female leadership in Australia, and that is not because we promote women ahead of men, it's because we are a meritocracy - we have great women with large amounts of talent and they got those roles on merit. There is a huge value that diversity and inclusion brings to any business. It makes us well positioned to be competitive, meet the needs of our customers and the market by having a rich array of backgrounds to embrace when making decisions. It also makes the workplace more interesting and fun.
Going forward, I will continue to lead by example and be a voice for creating an equitable workforce. Together we are raising the profile of this issue by being a sponsor of International Women’s Day and expanding our sponsorship program. To advance our own members, we are investing in ways for our employees to grow their skill sets, offer inclusive benefits and use data to ensure we have a culture that sustains gender equality.