Gender diversity is a much-debated topic in most industries, but with technology historically a male-dominated sector, it is certainly a prominent issue within IT. Although progress has been made, there is still plenty work to do to create true diversity. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that women make up just 28 per cent of the IT workforce, compared to around 46 per cent of the overall workforce. Whilst there are more women getting involved in the industry at a junior level, it narrows significantly within higher-level roles.
Having recently attended a Women in Technology conference (on top of another Women in Leadership event, as well as speaking to various industry experts) the challenges around gender diversity in the tech industry have become clear. Although a significant portion of responsibility lies in the hands of those in leadership, we, as women, also have the power to play an important role in steering change. Based on my learnings, here are three tangible steps we can take to drive gender diversity in Technology.
Find a Mentor
Understandably, it can be intimidating to pursue a career within an industry that doesn’t appear to represent you. However, keep in mind that you’re not totally alone in this field; if you know where to look, there are strong women everywhere who can guide you from that first step and beyond.
Having a female mentor can go a long way towards helping you navigate your tech careers – especially at the beginning, where uncertainty and doubt can threaten to unravel your progress. Finding a great mentor is not just about identifying someone in your field; a great mentor is someone that has been in your shoes. They can act as a role model to show just what is possible and support you in reaching your goals. They can also provide guidance for professional growth and advice on how to deal with any challenges that come up.
There are many ways to build this kind of professional relationship, but one simple method is to attend MeetUps and get to know potential mentors that way – or just start by asking someone for a coffee and chat. Ideally, any mentor you find would be someone that you don’t work with directly or from another company entirely, as this allows you to be more honest when discussing work-related matters.
Manage Your Return to Work
The tech sector especially is constantly evolving and growing, so it stands to reason that a few gaps in knowledge and expertise may present when returning to the workforce after a career break.
If you’re considering a break, or are currently on one, the following tips can help to ease the transition back into tech:
Keep up-to-date with new programming languages, tools and methodologies – This helps prevent returning workers from being blindsided by new technology. It can also be beneficial to think about taking part in additional training, refresher courses, webinars or conferences to update your skills and make the return smoother.
Ensure your return is at a time that is right for you and your family – Everyone’s circumstances are different, so recognise it’s alright to make the return gradually if that makes it easier. If you can, try creating a schedule that meets your needs – would flexible hours, working part-time or a work from home arrangement fit better than a standard 9-5 role?
Stay in touch with your professional network throughout the break – This can help a lot, as your working relationships will be invaluable when it comes to finding new opportunities and backing up your track record.
Partner with Management
There are plenty of people talking about the issue of gender diversity, but not as many who are actually doing something about it. We, as women, are in the unique position of being able to see problems and opportunities from the inside and this makes us valuable assets for building diversity initiatives.
If you have an idea or want to bring forth a constructive initiative for improving gender diversity, don’t be afraid to bring it up with management. Even better, where possible, partner with business leaders to help get initiatives off the ground and spread cultural change across the organisation.
If you don’t have anyone else to look to as an example for taking these kinds of steps, perhaps it’s time to be that example for others. Take control and make your voice heard and encourage other women in tech to do the same.
For women getting into tech, the industry’s gender diversity issues can be daunting and discouraging, but take control of your career, find comradery with others, show initiative and encourage change, to help ensure a long and fruitful journey. Never settle for ‘less than’ because the road ahead seems long – there are practical steps to make it easier to navigate.
To hear about opportunities for women in Technology, or for further advice, get in touch with me – SustainAbility is here for you every step of the way.