In this day and age you would be hard-pressed to find a single Australian tech firm that doesn’t have some form of diversity and inclusion program aimed at promoting female participation in the industry. That’s why it’s so surprising that a report by Australia’s Office of the Chief Scientist last year found that gender diversity is still staggeringly low, that women only account for 16% of the total STEM workforce in Australia.
This is an issue the Government is looking to address, most notably in the latest Federal Budget, whereby the Government pledged to employ a new ‘Women in STEM Ambassador’ who will focus on promoting STEM in schools and the development and distribution of a STEM Choices resources kit.
Despite this, the fact still remains that women are currently under-represented in the technology industry. So how can we begin to turn the tide?
Since joining Avanade in 2015, I have seen a huge emphasis on achieving diversity and equality with real investments, recruitment, and retention initiatives internally. At Avanade, we believe successful outcomes for our clients can only come through a workplace that supports equal opportunities for both men and women, and we have seen firsthand how inclusive workplaces bring the diversity of thought required to solve complex challenges.
By being able to show what can be achieved when collaboration exists, is the only way to encourage young women that they can make a real difference in the technology industry.
Our efforts in diversity at Avanade were recently acknowledged when we won the employer of choice for gender equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) – an award we are incredibly proud of. We won this award through the sheer hard work and passion of our staff, who continue to drive our vision of equal opportunity, which is ingrained in our culture.
In 2016, we began the Avanade Leadership Program for Women (ALPW), one of our key initiatives which champions women, invests in female talent, and helps to realise their potential during crucial points of their careers. The goal of this programme is to build skills that will enhance our female employees’ ability to communicate, network, and negotiate for opportunities in the future workplace. More initiatives such as this is the only way to attract and retain female (and male) talent in a competitive job market.
Finally, it is essential for women in the workforce to have role models and mentors that they can look up to and feel inspired by. This is particularly crucial for the next generation of girls and young women that we want to take up careers in STEM. The promotion of role models in our workplaces is crucial to achieve our objective of gender diversity. So let’s all be sure to share those inspirational ‘Women in ICT’ stories – with our colleagues, friends, family or children, to help motivate, inspire and paint a picture full of the opportunities and possibilities, for both genders, available in our industry.
Sandy Abrahams is the Head of Management Services at Avanade.