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MYOB’s Sally Elson Explains How They Aim To Achieve Gender Diversity Goals

MYOB is tackling gender diversity head on. Here we take a look at their DevelopHer program which helps them attract more women in STEM.

Sally Elson

As a tech business, building diverse and inclusive teams is a competitive advantage and it’s certainly not lost on MYOB, who recognise that women make up less than a third of university graduates in STEM and are doing something about it.

MYOB CEO Tim Reed has committed to recruiting more women in technical roles, aiming to have at least 40% of graduate level roles in the engineering team to be filled by women each year.

MYOB is focusing on inherent challenges in education, training and organisational structures which limit opportunities for women and hold them back from achieving their full potential. In part, they have sought to address this by finding alternate methods for recruitment within the business, creating the DevelopHER initiative, a 360 hour paid internship program designed to re-skill women who are seeking to re-enter the workforce as software developers. 

MYOB believes that the wide array of perspectives that result from diversity promotes innovation and business success, and as such they recognise the need to ensure there is good female representation in technology jobs of the future.

At MYOB’s recent Partner Connect event in Melbourne, Women Love Tech interviewed MYOB’s Head of People Advisory and Talent Sally Elson (pictured above) about the DevelopHer initiative and other ways the company is aiming to achieve gender diversity.

“We did the first intake of DevelopHer about three yeas ago,” said Sally, who is responsible for the programme. “It’s been reinvigorated since then and we’ve done four intakes in 18 months. We are looking for people who are not currently in tech but have a desire to be in tech. This includes mothers returning from a career break.”

So far, 13 women, from their mid twenties to early 40s, have been recruited into the MYOB programme and completed the Coder Academy coding course before starting their training at MYOB where they are allocated a mentor for nine months as part of the Protege programme. 

Emily Watson, Fiona Tolliday and Vanessa Nimmo are learning to code as part of MYOB's DevelopHer initiative
Emily Watson, Fiona Tolliday and Vanessa Nimmo are learning to code as part of MYOB’s DevelopHer initiative

Vanessa Nimmo (right) is one of the DevelopHer recruits. She was a musician and singing teacher before she started the programme, and had already started teaching herself to code. She said it would have taken her a lot longer and would have been much more difficult to change careers without DevelopHer.

Emily Watson (left) was a teacher who started working in the MYOB contact centre, where she worked for 18 months before applying for DevelopHer.

Fiona Tolliday (middle) worked in marketing and had children before learning to code. Her husband works in the industry which is how she heard about DevelopHer.

Currently the programme operates in Melbourne only but Sally says there are plans to expand to Sydney further down the track. 

“We are very focused on diverse and inclusive teams,” adds Sally. “We know they are more productive and have more critical thinking. We’ve been very focused on this for quite a while now. It’s part of our DNA.

“We are unapologetic that we focus on gender, we want to tackle the problem of gender diversity with full force. We set measurable targets for ourselves and we also do a gender pay gap analysis on an annual basis.

“Every six months, we look at like for like roles to see if we had any differences. The intention is to pay equitable rates for the same role and experience. In the first year, we had hundreds of adjustments to make, now three years later we’re down to 26 true gender adjustments. This applies to both male and females.”

Sally also takes a look at different technology to help achieve the aim of attracting more women into the company. For instance, they are currently part of a pilot programme with Reejig – an Australian product that takes a look at their data and talent systems. 

“It searches through data and the capability of those people,” she explains. “It helps ensure there is gender representation on all the short lists and helps see there is a balance and gives interesting insights. It’s important for us to try to identify where bias comes in.

“Also, we’re using Textio – a platform that helps write gender neutral communications. You put in a job add and it tells us if there is gender bias in the wording. We know that certain words have a gender focus. 

“Textio integrates with Microsoft. We can use it on Linkedin and internal comms, too. My view is recruitment is rife for disruption. We have got to do it differently, particularly with the future of work. We hire for potential, not just current achievements. 

“When we are looking for new roles, we look at how to access them differently. Assessing roles differently and assessing ourselves ensures we are trying to improve gender balance and build our workforce to be really inclusive. It’s a long game but you have got to have a game plan.”

And what does this mean for MYOB? It’s a question Sally has no hesitation in answering.

“It means business success for us and our clients’.

Robyn Foyster

Written by Robyn Foyster

Robyn Foyster is an award-winning journalist and former Editor-In-Chief of The Australian Women's Weekly. She is also the owner and publisher of Women Love Tech, Game Changers and The Carousel. Robyn is the owner and founder of a tech business called AR tech, where she helped create the world's first AR community shopping app called Sweep and her team produced the 2018 Vivid app. She is a speaker and a judge of the Telstra Business Awards and Mumbrella Awards. Robyn is passionate about supporting women in STEM.

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