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Building the female talent pipeline in the Tech Industry

Jayne Chater, Guest Post. 16 October 2017, 5:00 am
Building the female talent pipeline in the Tech Industry

Recently the Chief Executive of Spark publicly quoted that he was going to tackle gender equality in the organisation he ran. Why? simply because it makes great business sense, it impacts the bottom line. A no-brainer right? So why is it we still have industries like technology, so dominated by males? We know it makes sense, we know it impacts profit and the bottom line directly, yet our women are not progressing in this industry. 

One challenge is simply, that if women are not putting themselves forward for progression, then how can we progress them. Another challenge is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome, from females, males and organisations. For example, how are we attracting women to these roles, and how are we adapting the environment to encourage the pool of talented and capable women who left the workforce to have children, to return. The mums that have gone on parental leave and either not returned or returned at a lesser capacity or capability. It is challenging enough taking time out of the workforce to have children, (especially in such a fast moving industry), without the challenge of an environment that is not conducive to a mum managing her family and her career.

Perhaps the challenge is not simply encouraging mothers to return to the IT industry, but to encourage them to embark in the technology sector from an early stage and not be limited by current environmental factors.

Interestingly I was recently asked to speak at a Women in ICT conference, and as always I jumped at the chance to share time with 60-70 enthusiastic, passionate and successful women. In my research for the conference, what surprised me were the statistics for the New Zealand tech industry, where only 25% are female. This means 75% of roles, whether they are leadership roles, governance roles, financial decision making roles are mostly held by males. So in terms of career progression in this industry, it is even harder for women.

I believe women deserve better, our customers deserve better and our daughters deserve better. With only 25% females in the industry, with even fewer at a leadership level, it's already a challenge and if you choose to have a family and a career in tech, chances are you will be further disadvantaged. The gender pay gap starts at the beginning, with women in tech under the age 25 whose earnings are on average 30% less than their male counterparts. Interesting to know that in high tech industries the quit rate is more than twice as high for women than it is for men. I would suggest that a compelling reason for this is the challenge to have a career in tech and have a family.

So what can we do to encourage change, at an individual level, an organisational level and at an industry level?

As Executive Director of Professionelle I often see research on women in leadership and the challenges faced with career progression. Research and also in my experience of what I see, is women believe that if we work hard, we are good at what we do, we will get recognised and progress to the next level. Work hard, we get recognised and rewarded. Make sense right? Wrong.

Whereas in school and university getting the grades did mean getting the opportunities, it isn't so simple in the context of work. Research demonstrates that performing in your current role is a necessary but insufficient ingredient in itself for career success and progression. Things like image and exposure become more and more important as you progress in your career.

At the recent ICT conference, I spoke about a theory called PIE. While there's no one-size-fits-all way to achieve success, PIE is a tool which shows there are three levers that you can pull on to have a real, lasting impact on your career.

P = Performance

Performance is something that many women feel comfy with. Delivering the goods is what so many of us do well. But when it comes to making sure we're doing the RIGHT tasks to help ourselves succeed? That's what some of us aren't quite so good at. This is when it is important to know what to say YES to and what to say NO to. What are our boundaries, and what are our negotiables and non-negotiables?

I = Image

Image is all about how you're seen, or remembered. Whether it's being known as an expert, a pushover, a supportive coach, or a bad-ass boss, your image is your personal brand - and it's vital that you're authentically and positively building on it.

E = Exposure

Exposure is simple - it's about how well you're known. Do you have a big network who are talking about you and recommending you? Do the higher-ups in the business know who you are? Regardless of who you need to be known by, how are you getting in front of them.

One of the key insights that came from the conference, is the importance of female role models, mentors, sponsors and peer promotion. Women often find it hard to promote themselves, the key is to encourage internal and external relationships where we can support, mentor and advocate for each other to encourage change at a wider level.


Jayne Chater is the Executive Director of Professionelle, a social venture dedicated to advancing women's careers. Jayne is an executive coach, director, female advocate, mother of three, taxi driver and facilitator in exactly that order. 


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