IWD 2021: 8x8 manager on nurturing female talent
Comment from 8x8 channel enablement manager for A/NZ Sophia Demetriades.
What does the IT industry need to do to attract more women in the years ahead?
Increasingly, successful companies are coming to understand that tomorrow’s strong leaders can be found among the ranks of today’s junior staff members. Rather than importing senior talent, it can be nurtured internally.
Taking such an approach can deliver significant benefits to an organisation. Staff who can see they have a clear, long-term career path are more likely to remain loyal and committed employees. This, in turn, results in lower staff turnover and loss of corporate memory.
For some, it might be a little more challenging to understand the opportunity in front of them. A staff member in the IT department may think it too big a leap to shift into a management role. However, if their organisation is prepared to focus on their development, they will eventually have the self-belief needed to take the step.
What do IT companies need to do to ensure that more women have the opportunity to achieve senior leadership roles within their organisations?
People often take men’s expertise for granted but expect women to prove theirs. The best person for a leadership role isn’t necessarily someone with a lot of experience either. Women need to be given a chance, and IT companies can do that.
They can also implement quotas. The way in which talent is nurtured will vary from company to company, but some critical strategies remain constant. The most important thing is having a long-term commitment to investing in staff. Such investment needs to be in both money and time.
Money will pay for training and development courses, while time will ensure strong relationships are created between current senior management and aspiring junior staff members. To work, this commitment must start at the very top of the company. All staff need to understand that if they are prepared to put themselves on a career path, the company — from the CEO down — will back them every step of the way.
What is the role of government in attracting more women into STEM-based qualifications?
Governments need to play a role starting with the primary school system and ensure that more girls are attracted to STEM-based subjects. The process of nurturing tomorrow’s leaders has to begin as early as possible. School students should be aware of the opportunities open to them and the paths they can follow.
What can women do to support themselves and their peers drive a more diverse and inclusive IT industry in Australia?
Empowerment for women and girls also starts with the re-education of men and boys. Of course, women can be better at supporting each other through mentorship within the companies they work for and in the business community at large.
Mentorships provide an opportunity for younger staff to work with more experienced colleagues, map out career paths and discuss any challenges that might be being faced. We need to encourage females in the current generation entering the workforce to believe they can do anything and achieve whatever they put their mind to. We have to help them open their minds.
How do we get more women interested in tech?
Perhaps women’s influence in tech is best achieved by better management of people who actually work in tech. We need varied skills in any industry. I’m not an engineer, but I work well with engineers — we complement each other.
Nurturing fresh talent can also help improve gender diversity within a tech business. When young women recognise that an IT organisation promotes based on talent and experience rather than gender, they will be motivated to join the team. The best leadership teams are those that have a 50/50 gender mix. This results in a much more collaborative and supportive environment that drives innovation and business growth. Achieving this diversity will take time, but the results will be worth the effort.