How the tech industry can break down barriers for women is a report by Pamela Wilson, Board Member & Manager, Strategic Innovation and Engagement, uSpark.
Ever-evolving, imaginative and inventive, are three words I would use to describe the tech sector. It was the sector’s collaborative creative process, along with the impact that technology has on its users, that first attracted me more than 20 years ago.
You would think that with its infinite array of applications, technology has something to offer anyone looking for a career that is both challenging and rewarding. However, in my experience there are still fewer women pursuing work in this space compared to other sectors. Rather than constantly analysing the reasons for this I think we need to work more proactively to improve representation.
Change old perceptions
Ultimately, I believe the reason behind the low number of women in tech can be found at the heart of our education system and in the messages we give girls about tech from an early age. Many women simply don’t think they have the capability to be a tech professional. For so many years, the pervasive myth that women are “right-brained” and therefore more suited to creative or spontaneous pursuits has continued. It’s an unfortunate misconception as the tech sector provides enormous opportunities for well-applied creativity to flourish, regardless of gender. In order to see a generational change in the adoption of tech careers by women, we have to start changing this message in primary school.
Close the gap
Although the tech world is evolving, the gender gap is still wide. Change is happening, but the pace is slow, especially for senior positions in larger established businesses. For example, there is now more female junior staff, but representation decreases as you reach upper management levels, particularly amongst executives and company directors where women are still a rarity. There are insufficient champions to provide the necessary support for women coming up the ranks. Coaching and mentorship programs need to be put in place to encourage women into management positions. This is an accepted practice for men in top tier firms – we now need to extend that privilege to women.
Learn from overseas
There are different cultural mindsets that we can draw upon in motivating women to join and be successful in the tech sector. When I worked in San Francisco start-ups, I saw how self-confidence, buoyed by the American Dream, amongst female founders gave them the drive to pursue their goals and not be deterred by obstacles. In Australia, we often seem to wait for permission or ‘the right time’ to have a go and can give up too easily in the face of opposition. If anything, living in the US taught me that the spoils of success are won by the most persistent, not the most popular. What does this mean for women participating in the Australian tech sector? First and foremost, we need to be strident in valuing and promoting our own participation and achievements.
Promote Corporate Involvement
In California I noticed that corporates played a greater role in supporting female engagement in the tech sector through dedicated recruitment programs to expand participation, compared to Australia. I would like to see more Australian companies stepping up to support women in the sector by establishing employment targets. Contrary to popular wisdom this does work. For example, up until recently women comprised only 10% of unicorn Atlassian’s tech workforce. Atlassian was able to increase this number to 18% over a 12month period through targeted
recruitment. The takeaway here is that Atlassian made the commitment to change its hiring practices first, and the results followed.
Develop core partnerships
I think the position of women in the tech sector can be improved by more targeted cooperation between stakeholders such as investors, corporates, accelerators, government, and universities. Currently there are a plethora of initiatives in the sector being promoted to support women but many of these are working at cross purposes to each other which results in the squandering of precious resources and a confusing landscape for women to navigate.
Located in Melbourne, Australia, uSpark is powered by Unico Computer Systems, one of Australia’s most established IT services companies, with nearly 40 years of experience in delivering innovative technology solutions.
uSpark is a new business accelerator that partners with start-ups to help develop and build the technology they need to succeed. In 2021 uSpark launched the Destination Start-Up Partner Program to enable start-ups to fast track their product development by giving them access to critical technical resources uSpark’s technical expertise is generously provided by Unico to support the Australian innovation ecosystem.
Unico was founded by Geoff Illing and Mike Palmer in 1984 to solve some of the most complex business and technology problems across Australia & Asia Pacific.
Now boasting a team of over 200 members across Australia, Unico is proud to offer its customers full onshore service and support. Its team of highly skilled professionals understands the technology landscape and the business challenges faced by Australian organisations.
Working with some of Australia’s most prominent organisations within Telco, financial services, consumer business, utilities, and defence, Unico is highly regarded within the tech industry for the reliable delivery of career-spanning work, including an unbreakable solution for Australia’s largest Telco.
The team of software engineers, developers, technology specialists and consultants are passionate about helping Unico’s customers deliver their business strategy through seamless and smart technology solutions, striving to provide a high level of service and customer experience.