It is no secret that business technology companies suffer from an imbalance when it comes to the number of women they hire. This remains the stark reality despite research findings that reveal highly gender diverse tech companies return an average of 5.4 per cent higher profit each year than their less gender-diverse counterparts.
Combine this imbalance with estimates that it will be 202 years before we achieve pay parity in Australia and it is easy to feel discouraged – the void to fill is so wide.
The company I work for, sharing marketplace, ShareRing, is bucking the trend around gender imbalance, with a 60/40 ratio split in favour of women in our Australian office.
Tim Bos, our co-founder and CEO, recalls being very surprised at how male-dominated the technology sector was upon entering the industry more than two decades ago.
“When I was growing up, I lived with my mother most of the time. She ran her own business for a while and also worked in hospitality,” Bos recalls. “My first boss was also a woman, as was a subsequent boss, who also became my mentor. So, it was normal for me to see a woman in a position of power in the workplace, and it was something that I never really thought about.
“However, when I entered the technology industry about 22 years ago, I was very surprised at how male-dominated it was. When I started my own company in 2004, I had a chance to change that. Whilst we didn’t have a hiring policy with a focus on gender balance, we made a conscious effort to close the gap.”
He believes maintaining a good gender balance brings positive outcomes, and that more gender and cultural diversity allows businesses to connect with all of their customers in a more meaningful manner.
Michelle Gallaher, CEO of ShareRoot, believes that if the business technology landscape as a whole recognising the bias against women is the first step towards behaviour change.
“If we cannot see the wider problem and how it impacts socially and economically on communities, families and individuals, then it is virtually impossible to bring about change,” Ms Gallaher says. “Recognising bias against women is the first step towards macro transformation. Having International Women’s Day recognise the contribution of women gives us all an opportunity to share our stories, network and connect to other women.
“Seeing others who are succeeding and breaking new ground gives all women strength. We should never underestimate the value of storytelling, positive and negative, as the catalyst for change.”
Trang Tran, Senior Blockchain Developer and Phuong Trinh, Designer at ShareRing, both say that being part of a workplace that boasts such high women representation is the exception, not the rule.
“Being a female engineer, you have to accept that your working environment is male-dominated,” Ms Tran says. “Both of us have previously worked at businesses where we were the only women. It is the unfortunate reality that in technical areas it is harder for women engineers to gain recognition, with examples of excellent women engineers more rarer than those of males.”
It appears then that if we want to help bridge the existing gender imbalance, businesses across the board need to hold themselves accountable around what opportunities exist for women’s inclusion, empowerment and growth.
Amy Walker, Co-founder and Head of Growth at Cooperate, offers two suggestions for promoting gender balance in the workplace:
Make use of your OKRs – One of the biggest challenges for businesses is promotion, and too often men and women will differ in how they put themselves forward in these kinds of scenarios. Having solid OKRs – objectives and key results – in place for what each role needs to achieve provides a reliable tool for assessing promotion prospects based on real-time performance and ability, rather than the more traditional “show pony” approach.
Gender balance your decision groups – While board and management roles can take time to reach a gender balance, ensuring the groups that outline the requirements for key roles are equal will help to bring balance. If you have a 50/50 decision group that is in agreement on a new hire, then that will in itself bring balance.