28% of the IT Australian workforce is female, according to IT Professionals Australia. At senior levels, there is an even bigger lack of female representation, with women occupying a tiny percentage of ICT leadership roles. With an increasing demand in Australia for tech talent, you may be wondering, where are the women? Especially as we know a more diverse workforce is better for business profitability.
At 4mation, we have been asking ourselves the following questions. How do we encourage and support more women to grow their careers in the tech industry? What do we need to do to successfully recruit, retain and engage Australia’s top female tech talent? And importantly, what can other companies do to join us in this transformation?
We recently sat down with Maria Calibo-Sales, Founder of Calmar Corps. Calmar Corps is a Profit-for-Purpose Tech Start-Up that retrains women transitioning from domestic violence shelters. She supports these women by helping them gain flexible and safe employment by training them to become the linking intermediary within organisations. The women lead technology transformation projects and offer their skills in being able to utilise technology differently and explain IT simply.
One of the major takeaways from Maria’s discussion was how important it was to get a better understanding of the challenges for women in tech. Therefore, we decided to ask our women at 4mation.
What are the challenges women face in technology?
Women have a 45% higher rate of leaving tech roles than men. Understanding what challenges they face and how to support them is crucial. The first challenge that a lot of women face is finding inclusive environments. Having a good company culture and giving women the opportunity to develop connections can make all the difference.
“The ratio isn’t balanced but we’re getting there. It’s nice at 4mation where we have the opportunities for team bonding and we can banter over slack etc.”
Gayatri Kulkarni | Data Developer
- Working within team augmentation as a Data Developer for our client Integrity
- Moved from being a CRM consultant in India to a Data Developer in Sydney
A second challenge many women in tech face is differences in communication style. Thais Manfrin is a Senior Java Developer at 4mation, shares how communication can be challenging.
“Indeed, women have an additional challenge when they are in a predominantly male environment. They need to develop different communication skills. Otherwise, they may have difficulties communicating effectively in the group.”
Helping women hone a successful communication style and encouraging them to voice their opinions is critical for women in tech.
For Thais, having strong communication skills and loving a challenge has had a positive impact on her career. “I like challenges, and I have lots of fun with that”. Whilst Thais has a strong logical mindset, she emphasised being able to communicate and socialise well in a technical profession has helped her in the industry. This innate ability to communicate well and explain complex subjects has been found to be beneficial for women in the industry.
Thais Manfrin | Senior Java Developer
- Working within team Augmentation as a Senior Java Developer for our client Atlassian
- Inspired to work in technology from her love for maths
- Won the Innovation award at Atlassian
What can companies do to better support women in tech?
The first initiative for companies to focus on is communication. Letting women know that they can get a seat at the table and that their aspirations can be made a reality. Forbes contributor, Dr Margie Warrell talks about how role models have an amplified benefit for women, with Thais agreeing that having a professional mentor who can offer advice and guidance is crucial.
“I think the best support a company can give to their women in tech is to have more women in the team (not necessarily in tech). I also consider professional coaching very helpful. This way a woman can understand not only her strengths and contributions but also where she should adapt to succeed in the tech industry.”
Unfortunately, across a wide range of industries, there isn’t enough opportunity to meet and be inspired by women. Our technical recruiter at 4mation Chelsea Zadravec, spoke about how her experience in hospitality was similar to that of many of the women in tech.
“Where I came from previously, it was a male-dominated industry. Every GM was male and for every next career step, I never saw a female as a role model.”
For the women that do get to experience the power of having a female role model, it can be very encouraging. Gayatri spoke about how having a strong female role model in close proximity has affected her.
“Luckily, I do have the opportunity to interact and work with women in leadership. At Integrity, I have the opportunity to see the Customer service manager take command of things that are happening in the industry. It’s inspiring to see a woman at that level.”
Providing constructive feedback and actionable advice
A second way companies can better support women is by providing constructive feedback so they can improve. Our marketing manager Sacha Henry spoke about how important feedback has been in her career.
“Take on feedback, as much feedback as you can. It’s the biggest quality I’ve been working on during my time at 4mation, and I’ve also learnt that providing your feedback to others in the team is super important.”
Sacha Henry | Marketing Manager
- Marketing Manager and part of the leadrship team at 4mation
- Joined the tech space due to her interest in the Australian tech market and her exposure with a HR SaaS project
- Inspired by Simon Sinek – “Dream big. Start small. But most of all, start.”
Unfortunately, studies have shown that whilst men often receive more constructive criticism, women receive more criticism of perceived personality traits. Sacha spoke about her past experience with this.
“In previous roles, I’ve had feedback that perhaps would not have been shared with my male colleagues. These include tone of voice or the old “you aren’t smiling enough.” But what I find worse, is no feedback at all! At 4mation, the feedback is consistent in its style and approach. It’s part of the culture here and driven by every team member.”
Similarly, for Thais, she reflected on how receiving feedback from our client Atlassian was a big achievement for her.
“ I think the most recent one was the feedback from Atlassian, where they said I was capable of completing tasks efficiently. Previously, I was in a support role for 4 years and when I joined Atlassian I joined a fully online environment. It was also a very technical team, and I was the only woman for a long time. Plus I started in the same week that homeschooling started! Receiving great feedback was a big achievement for me, and I am really proud of that.”
Understanding the “Confidence gap”
Women often underestimate their skills or experience in interviews whilst men overestimate theirs. Our technical recruiter Chelsea spoke about how she has witnessed this when hiring candidates:
“The women I reach out to tend to be more open and conversational. However, often I find that they discount their experience. When it’s like for like in terms of experience between candidates, I generally find that women don’t put themselves up on a pedestal as much as men do.”
Chelsea Zadravec | Technical Recruiter
- Inspired to work in tech due to her love for a new challenge
- Hired and placed a Senior Front End Developer in her first month
- Worked in a wide variety of industries
Research has shown that this is quite common. For instance, a study from the WiCS Advocacy Council showed that female computer science concentrators with eight years of programming experience are as confident in their skills as their male peers with only 0 – 1 years of programming experience. Understanding these unique differences is important to help ensure that you properly weigh candidate skills and experience.
We are doing a lot of work in helping our new starters bridge any confidence gaps they may have by helping them build relationships within the business (even it is online). In September, we welcomed Bey Alivand, and we are very excited to have her as part of the team.
Bey Alivand | UI / UX Designer
- Working as a Product Designer for our client Integrity
- Accessibility and diversity advocate
- Loves mentorship – helping junior designers with Career Advice
At 4mation we will be focusing on empowering women in tech with a range of initiatives, such as quarterly female guest speakers from the tech industry, collaboration between departments and mentorship. Our future goal is to have a programme specifically for women starting out in the tech industry, designing an internship that would provide women with great exposure to tech positions within our organisation.