It’s no secret that there is a significant shortage of women working in the Australian tech sector but is the answer to increasing gender diversity simply a matter of hiring more females?
Financy recently spoke to Sally Wallace of the global trip planning website, Rome2rio, who is hiring 40 people this year, many of them will be women but they won’t necessarily have tech backgrounds.
In this Q&A Sally explains how to think outside the box to achieve diversity in workplaces:
1. There has been a lot of conversation around the talent and skills shortage across industries, especially in tech. How can we solve this?
Hiring talent is a major challenge for all businesses in Australia right now. The country is suffering the second worst skills shortage in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). There are a few ways we can solve this crisis though, starting with education.
We need to be in schools and universities sharing the opportunities available in tech.
The industry needs to be working with educational institutions to ensure their curriculums and programs are catering to the skills needed for the future of work. This is a long-term solution though.
In the short to medium term, there are two options I believe companies need to focus on. Firstly, upskilling talent.
The technology industry is ever-changing and there are lots of new skills to learn, so it is crucial for businesses to provide training and work to continue to upskill team members.
This will mitigate some of the issues the industry is facing with finding talent.
The second solution is changing the way we source talent.
Companies need to start to think outside the box with the way they are recruiting. Now more than ever it is important to be proactive in seeking out candidates, instead of expecting them to come to the business or apply for job ads.
One of the biggest barriers to growing the talent pool has been the notion that candidates need a computer science degree and a decade of coding in the garage as prerequisites.
This is not the case in most jobs and we need to make sure we communicate this when advertising jobs as it limits the diversity of talent.
2. The tech industry has been male-dominated for many years. How can we change this to create equal gender representation?
Tech companies need to start by actively recruiting women instead of waiting for women to apply for roles with them. If they aren’t receiving applications from female candidates, companies should really be investigating why that is and looking at ways to resolve it.
The recruitment experience is the gateway to any role so it is important to revisit the language used in the job description and ensure it is inclusive.
At Rome2rio, we have changed our own job ads to encourage candidates to apply even if they don’t necessarily have all the skills and qualifications listed in the job description.
As I mentioned, there are a lot of misconceptions that you need to have a coding background or have studied computer science to be in tech when in
reality this is not the case.
There are so many skills that can be taught on the job – the most important thing is having the right attitude and willingness to learn.
Visibility also plays an integral role in moving towards equal gender representation. STEM careers have for many years been dominated by men which have had an impact on encouraging more female talent into these industries.
We are starting to see some positive changes and more young women joining the industry at a junior level which will create better representation in the future but it is important to ensure we don’t stop this momentum.
Otherwise, we won’t get to see equal amounts of women in management roles.
3. Why is diversity important? How can the industry benefit from hiring women?
Diversity makes every sector stronger and it has been well documented that it increases revenue. With diversity comes more ideas and different perspectives.
Women make up half of the population.
So, how can we continue to innovate when we are missing out on half the ideas and perspectives that we could work with to create new solutions and solve problems the world is facing?
Technology has transformative abilities, but these abilities are limited if we are limiting the number of people working in the field. Without more women behind it then there are going to be inherent biases that can lead to issues like inequality and innovation will ultimately be stifled.
4. What advice do you have for tech companies trying to recruit more women?
My first piece of advice is to embrace flexibility as a business. Traditionally, most employees have had to make their lives work around their work with rigid hours.
Now that no longer needs to be the case. Whether that be a work from anywhere model, offering part-time roles or offering full-time employment based on outcomes over hours, flexible working arrangements are here to stay and they make a business more competitive in this tough employment market.
Businesses across industries, including those in tech, should be implementing flexibility if they are looking to hire more women and diverse candidates.
For women who have just had children and are reentering the workforce, or who could potentially be a single parent unable to work full-time hours, these arrangements are more desirable and will lead to more women joining businesses that offer them.
My other piece of advice is to create a culture of collaboration, accountability and empowerment that values diversity and equal growth and progression for all.
The culture should be built on trust, empathy and great communication. Rarely is there a situation that cannot be worked around somehow to ensure individual employees’ circumstances are supported while being a part of a productive team. At the end of the day, it is important to offer a true sense of belonging and purpose.