I recently had the opportunity to attend the Women in Technology Conference in Sydney, hosted by Maddox Events.
As Thoughtworks was a sponsor of the event, it gave me an opportunity to meet technologists, marketers and even clients of Thoughtworks, all of whom were passionate about supporting women in tech. The best part of the whole event was when I saw 800 women fill the auditorium - and that is when I realised, the world is changing… and for the better!
Later, when people came to our booth and asked me about my experience as a woman in technology, and whether I was happy at Thoughtworks, my answer was a loud and resounding “Yes!”
I am happy at Thoughtworks, because every day that I am in the company of Thoughtworkers, they surprise me. We implement a unique approach of looking beyond educational degrees and identifying passionate individuals who are self-taught tech enthusiasts. We firmly believe in conducting training, workshops, and raising discussions on topics that affect society, including unconscious bias awareness, sexism, gender diversity and inclusion, privilege, race, and ethnicity. We even ensure that any potential Thoughtworker we are looking at, respects and understands inclusivity by embedding that as a key factor in our interview process.
We can all be intentional about increasing the number of women we have in our organisation, but is that enough? I believe we need to be inclusive of them as well. A few things that I’ve noticed can help build that inclusivity is:
Build a rapport with people you haven’t spoken to before and ensure that nobody feels excluded or isolated from the conversation
Grab the opportunity and invite others to speak up
Use gender-neutral language; 'folks' and 'team' rather than 'Guys'
Encourage peers to write a vision of what they want to pursue and help them work towards it
Address the issues of why people are not talking during a meeting and try and solve them
Ask yourself, what strategies have you tried to create more inclusivity in your work and life?
Helping others to feel involved is each and everyone’s responsibility. You really need to own your part in the bigger picture. All that you do to ensure inclusion happens is a small step towards solving the puzzle.
In one of the sessions I went to, the speaker said that in Australia, around 56% of women drop out of the IT industry in their mid-30s. When I dug deeper into the problem to understand the cause, it addressed the elephant in the room:
Most of the women did not get the support from their managers/organisations to continue after a parental break.
So, while we all talk about Women in Technology and how the numbers should increase, are we really doing anything about it to sustain them in this ever-changing market?
A woman might cringe from taking a sabbatical after a long-running engagement or starting a family because she would know that once she comes back, things would have changed at a much quicker pace than she could keep up with. For all that we know, she might not even feel included during conversations, as her peers might not consider the fact that she has just come back and needs to be briefed about what has been going on around or what she can do to get herself up to speed. If employers are unable to help women keep up with the pace and address their blockers, it will not help - no matter how well you advocate Women In Tech.
I think a few ways in which an employer can support women - if they are returning to work or starting, is to:
Set an example by getting leadership to start working themselves flexibly. E.g., Working from home and encouraging others to do the same to maintain a work-life balance, using flexible working hours to accommodate family needs and commitments.
Ensure employees are aware of their rights with regards to flexible work. Regular communications to all employees at monthly catch ups, conferences and one on one conversations discussing the benefit of flexible work.
Provide employees time, resources and space to upskill themselves; any training which would enable them to get acclimatised to the market changing trends
Ensure employees are aware of coaching and mentoring programmes that will help them hit the ground running
I am very lucky to work in an organisation where gender is a free-form field, where women are encouraged to return to work without hassles, where I have seen women succeed in leadership roles, and where women provide mentoring and receive the same and progress towards their goals. But I know that there is still work to do, both within our organisation, and our industry. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the day, that all of us should keep in mind:
Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusivity is being asked to dance.
- Verna Myers
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.