While women in Australia make up 46.2 per cent of the workforce, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, when it comes to the tech industry, the number of women falls to between 28-31 per cent.
But we’re still doing better than the US, where women account for 57 per cent of all employees with only 25 per cent holding tech positions.
So, Australia has a lot to be thankful for – the fact that the nation is moving forward.
Ange Ferguson from global tech company Thoughtworks told Women Love Tech they are making great moves in attracting and retaining women. Fifty-nine per cent of ThoughtWorks’ 2016 graduates were female and the company has consistently hired at least 50 per cent female graduates every year since 2011. It’s part of their commitment to improving diversity in the local technology industry.
“There seems to be a big misconception that there aren’t a lot of women working in tech, but that’s actually not the case. In our company alone, seven of our managing directors are women, and our global Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is a woman. Our global executive team is made up of six men and four women. Many are surprised to know that in Australia half our ThoughtWorkers are women, and close to 40 per cent of our technical roles are held by women,” Ferguson said.
“The real challenge in the tech industry is that of retention.”
“Retaining a brilliant and diverse workforce means creating inclusive workplaces that encourage, foster and actually embrace diversity. This is something we have worked hard at, primarily because it’s just the right thing to do.”
ThoughtWorks Australia offers graduate roles across Software Development, Business Analysis, Testing and Experience Design. The company has created ways to help develop female technologists within the business – ranging 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 they’re striving to be a catalyst for positive change in the way women are viewed and treated within the tech industry.
“It’s important to encourage young women to consider the opportunities that the tech industry offers, and we’re getting more involved in doing just that. On International Women’s Day this year, Dr Leila Alem, our Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Specialist, visited a girls’ school in Melbourne to talk to them about the tech industry – and she was pleasantly surprised by how much they knew and how many senior students were planning for a job in technology.”
“Because of the fast pace, perhaps more than any other sector, technology is about continuous learning and development. Regardless of whether you’re a graduate or nearing retirement, a rewarding career in tech is all about keep up with (or one step ahead of) industry pace – and I like to think we have an environment that encourages continual growth and exciting, ever evolving tech career pathways.”
But it’s clear that a major challenge is in not only attracting the next generation of tech stars, but retaining them for as long as possible.
Ferguson said the industry needs to work much harder at focusing on keeping females in the industry by creating something unique, so that they want to evolve with the company for the long term.
“To do that we’ve invested in creating an inclusive workplace that supports women through initiatives like dedicated Women in Leadership development program, 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,” Ferguson said.
“We invest in creating a workplace where everyone feels supported no matter their individual circumstances, and we place a firm emphasis on assisting women returning to work, especially seeing as the fast pace of the tech world can sometimes mean people can feel left behind.”
Interestingly, Ferguson likes the idea that nobody is too young – or too old – for the tech industry. What needs to happen is more companies embrace the benefits of having a diverse workforce.
“There are two things to consider when it comes to the discussion about gender and age. Firstly, we are facing a huge talent constraint in the tech industry and, secondly, we know that having a diverse workforce delivers big benefits to the business – so, if you’re willing and able there’s no such thing as being too young or too old,” Ferguson said.
“We hire, support, and recognise all employees without penalty or privilege towards their gender identification or life stage, and really are proud to stand out as a tech industry leader with nearly half our people in Australia identifying as female. If you have the drive and determination, anything is possible.”
“It’s also an important time to reflect on the contributions women have made in the tech space, and just how far we have come. There is still a lot of work to do, however, but we have set a strong foundation to work from.”
ThoughtWorks University offers grads a five-week experience in India that enables them to connect with colleagues from around the world and gain an intimate understanding of the business and its broader purpose. Last year 324 graduates attended ThoughtWorks University and in 2017 that will increase to 444. Find more information at www.thoughtworks.com.