Women In Tech: Looking At How We Can Change The Stats

Pamela Connellan
on June 24, 2021

Talent International held an event yesterday called Women In Tech: Are We There Yet? Hosted by author and journalist, Georgie Dent, the live event asked for feedback from listeners as well as its panel, to find out what we still need to achieve for women in tech. Women Love Tech was the media partner for the event which featured a panel of women from the industry including: Angela Lam, CIO of Shell Australia; Emma Jones, Project F CEO & Founder; and Rebecca Chenery, CDO of Watercare Services Ltd in New Zealand.

Why does such an event need to be held? The main reason is so we can find out how we can change the inbalances which still exist in the tech sector. While we all know the tech sector is full of leadership and innovation – it’s also a fact that currently, women make up about 60 per cent of the global work force, yet they make up only 30 per cent of the workforce in major tech companies. This event aimed to find out why this is still the situation and what we can do to change it.

Georgie Dent
Georgie Dent was the host.

As the event’s host, Dent, said: “While progress has been made in recent years, women working in technology roles are still significantly outnumbered and face a myriad of challenges in their careers. Despite many conversations about gender diversity in tech, women are still underrepresented, underpaid, and often discriminated against in the tech industry, numbers show.”

Dent emphasised this is an important discussion to get a live reading on the challenges faced by women as viewers give their feedback to the live questions. The event’s organiser, Talent International, will gather this data to contribute to a report which will be used as information for business leaders around the world.

Emma Jones
Emma Jones, Project F CEO & Founder.

To open the event, Dent asked how we can encourage more women to work in tech and panel member, Emma Jones, Project F CEO & Founder said: “The reality is there’s just not enough incoming young female talent to university degrees. To actually grow the pipeline, it’s about going further back and looking at high school and primary school – and encouraging young ladies to basically be interested in engineering and science.”

Jones added she’s found a talk by Tanya Reilly called Technical Leadership and glue work to be extremely important in highlighting what can happen with a lot of female workers in the tech industry. Jones said Reilly’s video and post went viral because she describes the types of work women can get caught up in including facilitating projects, calling meetings, documentation etc. The only problem with doing this glue work is the fact the women who often end up doing it usually don’t get rewarded for it and it can be career limiting.

“Bearing in mind that 56% of women in technology leave technology at a mid-point in their career – which is more than double the number of men – and this is not to have children,” said Jones. “You don’t leave an industry to have children – you might leave a job for that and come back. But what’s been found to be one of the biggest obstacles is this issue of ‘glue work’…. So what happens is, the engineering team’s success is not just about turning out code, there’s a lot more to the success of a team… So when I talk about glue work we’re talking about the stuff that is not as promotable… So it’s things like writing documentation sessions, improving new member on-boarding, mentoring coaching or junior team end of members, improving processes, that kind of thing.”

Jones said the fact women are often very good at glue work means they can often be overlooked for promotion when they’re working in tech. She said what can happen is women end up doing these types of roles and then they move out of the industry. She added that this factor, combined with the fact women may not take part in some of the recreational activities at work such as sports or gaming, and they often end up needing to work more flexibly or part-time, means they may not have access to opportunities for development and promotion.

For more on this, you can visit Reilly’s post here or watch the video below:

Imposing self-limitations

Moving on to the next question, Dent brought up the fact women can sometimes impose more limits on themselves than anyone else. A question came up on the screen asking viewers if they would apply for a role if they didn’t feel they met all of the criteria. Interestingly, 40% of viewers said they wouldn’t unless they met 100% of the criteria.

Dent said: “Now, this is very interesting because this is something which has come up in many different fields – not just tech – but in politics, in banking and finance and law. Many women really wouldn’t apply for a job if they didn’t meet all of the criteria and yet we know that men are more likely to apply for a job if they make three or four of the criteria. So, we can see women may be de-selecting from the process before it the begins.”

Rebecca Chenery, CDO of Watercare Services Ltd in New Zealand said she agreed wholeheartedly with this: “No-one would challenge me more – in any way – than myself,” she said.

The role of parenthood

Angela Lam
Angela Lam, CIO of Shell Australia.

The issue of parenthood was raised and Jones said: “It takes a woman on average, six years to get back to where she was after taking parental leave… Only one in 20 men take the parental leave they’re given which is not a great statistic.”

Angela Lam, CIO of Shell Australia, commented on this saying she was lucky to be given a lot of opportunity when she became a mother: “I wouldn’t be the leader I am today if it wasn’t for the sponsors and mentors I’ve had during my career, both male and female. Really early in my career, when I first started, I had a CEO who was fundamental in helping to shape the leader that I am and gave me the opportunity to lead very early in my career. I remember coming off maternity leave – my son is 15 now – and after six months, she gave me the opportunity to run the IT department and join the executive team. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, hey, look, I can do this and I can do that!”

Rebecca Chenery
Rebecca Chenery, CDO of Watercare Services Ltd.

The importance of good mentors

The role of mentors was discussed and Lam added: “If I look at my current experience with Shell, and I started during COVID, so about six months ago, the onboarding experience has been a very interesting one, and they actually have a fantastic support structure around presenters and mentors. So my boss is global, I’ve never actually met them face-to-face.”

How COVID has changed things

In regards to how COVID has changed the landscape in tech, Chenery said: “COVID has been a transformational time for more flexible working conditions. But at the same time, it’s given us new pressures – often in our home life. In severe lockdown, I felt I needed to compensate and I ended up being completely exhausted. But by the second lockdown , I found a better balance.”

To watch all of the Women In Tech: Are We There Yet? event, simply take a look at our video above. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Women In Tech – an international organisation helping close the gender gap so more women can embrace technology.

About Talent International: Talent International is a leading tech and digital recruitment specialist. With a presence across 16 cities and annual revenue close to $750 million, the company is independently owned and operated. You can find out more here.

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