On June 30th 2016, over 60 people gathered at Deloitte’s Brisbane offices to hack solutions to the problem of how to accelerate more ICT women into leadership roles. Using a blend of agile and leadership facilitation techniques, a team of talented facilitators guided teams through problem challenges to solve. Over 30 minutes teams had to define the problem, brainstorm solutions & whip it into a Pitch. Leith Mitchell, Director Mitchell Services, MC & Lead Facilitator, shares her opening address.
A warm welcome to everyone here this morning. Great to see you all. Let’s start by raising your Lego blocks- up high in the air- let’s check we all have one. Excellent. The Lego blocks demonstrate the diversity we have in the room here today- different colours representing cross sector roles. Hold onto those Lego blocks- they will be used to cast your vote at the end of the day. Can I ask- who unconsciously- without thinking about it- picked up their Lego blocks with their dominant hand. Show of hands? Today we are all about challenging the new ways of things- looking at things in different ways- challenging unconscious thinking about women in ICT.
Exciting to have in this room so many women-in-tech role models demonstrating how they’re making the sector better by bringing a broad range or perspectives to the services and products they’re developing. It’s an exciting industry to be a part of. For all of us in the room. The digital economy in Australia is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy. Disrupting industries, organisations and careers, as well as creating an enormous new economic opportunities for businesses, start-ups and for people with skills in the innovation space.
What is not so exciting about the IT industry is that still a male-dominated industry that has no more excuses for being male-dominated. Given the world’s first computer programmer was female; given that technology is inclusive, accessible, innovative and collaborative; given that technology is used by women and men, this inequity should be disrupted already. If any industry can make changes, the tech industry – considered the world leaders in disruption- should be all over it. When we think of disruptive technology companies, which companies do we think of? Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Atlassian – and we think that these new disruptors will have fixed this problem already. Right? Yet over the last year, they have shared their statistics on low representation of females at every level of their organisations.
What is the scale of the problem? Women are significantly underrepresented in the ICT profession, accounting for only 28 per cent of the workforce. This drops to 14% of women in IT leadership roles. In board roles, female representation continues to be concentrated to certain roles – HR, accounting, marketing and legal. Let’s go back further down the pipeline- only one in ten graduates from IT degrees in Australia are women. And even further. Year 12 subject selection in Queensland schools in 2014, shows that only one in 10 engineering technology students and technology studies students are females.
Parents and teachers have a huge impact on career decisions. I grew up in Gladstone where the choices for girls were nursing or teaching- I started my career as a teacher, and remember 1 subject on ICT in 4 years of teaching studies. Then as a teacher with 1 PC in my classroom used once a week for computer time. My primary school aged daughters they have computer lessons one day a week too- just that now everyone gets a computer.
I moved into consulting and was inspired by women in tech. I went back to university and studied Masters of IT, and for the next 17 years, worked for PwC & IBM as a technical consultant, project manager and Human Capital Management Exec. Then I was asked to take on a completely different role. An internal role. For 5 years, I was IBM’s Diversity Recruitment Leader for over 50 countries. I had no previous HR or diversity experience- but brought deep technical and business skills to the role. From a data perspective, we didn’t make gender mandatory at application stage, so we didn’t know where we were losing women in the recruitment pipeline. Looking at the problem from a data perspective, now isolated the main issue- for every 100 men applying, only 1 women was applying. We now knew we had an attraction issue and created a range of initiatives including non-gendered language, job description redesign, university relationships, university scholarships, re-energising EXITE camps for girls. My data mining skills determined new dashboards to drill down at every stage of the process. My statistical knowledge guided the decision to have targets at every level of the pipeline- not just at the top end for executive women. I applied my process re-engineering skills to how we increased the applicant pool; a target for our recruiters of a minimum of 1 qualified female in each applicant pool, and 50/50 targets for our suppliers. As well as working with Procurement to create weighted percentage for evaluating suppliers. I worked with the business to develop global strategy and KPIs for attracting women into all levels of the business. In Australia, the biggest improvement came when the IBM ANZ CEO Andrew Stevens joined the Male Champions of Change, moved diversity away from HR to focus as his strategic priority; then staked 50% of his bonus on achieving the KPIs. That’s when things really got interesting and the culture of the organisation started to shake up. Some learnings from this role were that gender diversity is a complex issue that requires collective thought to disrupt the status quo.
For the last 2 years as Mitchell Services Director, I work with boards and executive teams to progress gender diversity in their organisations. Organisations like AECOM who are looking broader for industry collaboration to disrupt the status quo not just in their organisation, but across an entire industry in Queensland to address gender inequity through driving the Diversity in Infrastructure Industry Group. I work with these organisations to create systemic change through developing the diversity strategy and bias interrupters across structural, cultural, interpersonal, personal and unconscious bias dimensions. Not just the traditional let’s just get women to step up and be more confident. Real interventions at every level.
I am excited that as a collective group we have come together today to share, innovate and create some powerful, game changing “hacks” on How we promote more tech women into leadership roles?. Hacks are ideas that are game changers, with immediate and long lasting impacts.
Think about the power of this room, you are all in this room today for a reason. You are in senior roles, you are in positions of influence, you are innovators. The power we have in this room to bring about change is remarkable, and I can’t wait to see the results.
With thanks to keynote Elizabeth Harper GHD CIO. Recognition to the outstanding calibre of senior facilitators- Enid Hughes, Global People Lead, Presence of IT; Nicole Tewierik, Human Capital Management Director, Deloitte; Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen, Founder Tech Girls Movement; Tracy Griffiths, Communications, Brisbane City Council; Kaisu Christie Head Digital Innovation, BOQ; Fiona Hayes, Adobe Exec & President, Women in IT (WIT); Heidi Mathieson, Project Manager, QLD Government Office for Women; Karsten Schultz, National Program Manager, Digital Careers.
Thanks to sponsors Deloitte, Presence of IT, ACS Queensland & Mitchell Services. Important to recognise that this event was leveraged from VIC ICT Women, driven by Seonaid Porter for sharing the design and knowledge capital. Thanks to Enid Hughes, Presence of IT & ACS Women, for her vision to bring this event to Queensland.
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