Diversity has been talked about for many years and yet it remains a big problem. I don’t think I realised how crucial it was until moving to Melbourne eight years ago…
At university in India, there was an equal proportion of men and women studying software engineering. Even when I started working as a developer, gender equality wasn’t a problem at IT companies.
Fast forward to my first job at a start-up in Melbourne and I soon realised I was the only woman. Despite the company trying hard to recruit more women, the fact we weren’t even getting female applicants made me really think about the issue in a wider context.
The reason diversity matters
The products we build are used by a diverse group of people. Therefore, for a product to be truly user centric, it should be built by subsets of that group, who are capable of making the right considerations and decisions, which benefit everyone.
People of all genders, races, classes and backgrounds bring different perspectives. In my experience, men are often more analytical than women, while women bring emotional intelligence and creative thinking to the table – both of which are critical when solving problems and building great products.
This isn’t always the case, as some individuals are naturally more gifted in certain areas regardless of their gender. But it goes without saying that a diverse workforce is a key driver for any business to succeed.
Increasing diversity in the tech sector
From conducting my own research and talking to a lot of people about diversity, I soon realised we needed to look at the root cause of the problem – not many women work in the tech industry because not many women consider it a serious career choice.
Even though schoolgirls score really well on Science and Maths subjects, the number of women choosing STEM, CS and IT drops considerably when it comes to university. This could be because of misconceptions about the industry, stereotypical views about women or even imposter syndrome.
But there are ways in which we can encourage more women to consider the tech sector as a career option, which Transpire is actively pursuing and promoting:
– Establish internships and/or mentoring programs – Encouraging schoolgirls to take STEM subjects would be easier if this career option is given more exposure by the tech industry. Along with internships that provide an insight into what it’s like working in tech, mentoring programs can help university students connect with people to learn from for greater career confidence.
– Organise meetups and panel talks – These events are great platforms for women to share their experience of working in the tech industry. Not only are they accessible avenues for discussion, meetups and panel talks also create general awareness of diversity and how important it is to address.
– Update company policy – This could include providing support to help women get through challenging situations at work such as coming back from maternity leave, overcoming insecurities or pursuing career growth after a break. Flexible working is one option.
– Run workplace initiatives – In order to promote the role of women, reduce stereotypes and create more inclusion. For example when a woman runs or attends a meeting with a room full of men, she might not have the loudest voice in the room but is bound to have great ideas to contribute. Spaces need to be created where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts. One thing we try to do is to coach our team to be mindful of this.
– Instil a culture of confidence – We should be teaching and coaching women of all ages to lean in and be brave. Research suggests that women are less likely to apply for jobs or put their hand up for new responsibilities if they are not 100 percent confident they have the skills compared to men.
– Include women in more processes – Such as having at least one woman present during interviews. By having a diverse group of people make hiring decisions, you minimise unconscious bias and give interviewees the opportunity to relate to more people on your team.
– Join the community – Be part of groups and organisations such as Go Girl, Go for IT, Code Like a Girl, Women in Tech and Girl Geek Academy. Through networking, you could meet those going through similar situations and learn how to overcome challenges.
Diversity success stories
– Women in Tech Melbourne – A Facebook page that was created around the same time I came back to the office after maternity leave. Posts included tips about attending meetups with your four month old baby, checking for pram access etc.
– Young Coders Au – One of my friends, Kruti Patel, who is really passionate about diversity started this non-profit organisation to teach young kids about technology with an equal number of seats for girls and boys.
– Partnering with universities such as RMIT – Talking to students and giving them a snapshot of the industry so they could make more informed decisions when choosing a career. This also included helping them connect with mentors at an early stage.
There’s still a long way to go with diversity in tech, especially when it comes to closing the gender gap. But if we continue with the above initiatives and keep empowering women at work, there’s no reason why we can’t reach parity soon. Feel free to get in touch with us to share your own thoughts on diversity.