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IWD 2021: Snowflake manager on improving female representation in IT

08 Mar 2021

Comment from Snowflake manager of sales development for Asia Pacific and Japan, Ailie Patten.
 

What does the IT industry need to do to attract more women in the years ahead?

The IT industry, in fact, all STEM disciplines face challenges attracting women. There's a long legacy of poor representation. Technology is a part of (just about!) everything we do, and increasingly a part of every business, so our mindset needs to reposition.

My father has been in the IT industry for his entire career. I distinctly remember sitting with him when I got to that very stressful part of grade school and was asked, "What do you want to do when you leave this place?". I looked him straight in the eye and said, "Sorry to disappoint, but it ain't IT!" 

And why was that? Because I had (wrongly) been led to believe that those who work in IT were stereotypes coding on computers all day (no disrespect to my incredible colleagues who would describe themselves this way!). 

Flash forward nine years, and I find myself the manager of sales development across Snowflake's Asia Pacific and Japan region. Yes, it's a tech company. And a huge one! 

Snowflake's offering is parked in the centre of businesses, their need to understand (through data) themselves, their customers, the world, and the ecosystems they operate in. 

So why is this not attractive to women? And how can the IT industry attract more of us? I think the above explains my reasons. It's so important to make careers in technology relatable to more women. It's not just about your typical stigma of the IT world that once was. It's the chance to be a part of the future. Let's change how we market 'a career in IT'. 

What do IT companies need to do to ensure that more women have the opportunity to achieve senior leadership roles within their organisations?

It's no secret that women are underrepresented in key decision-making roles across almost all industries. Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I'm a firm believer that women will attain senior leadership roles given the opportunity, which will be on merit. 

Yes, we need to break some long-entrenched belief systems, and they are out there, but I think that tide has turned. We now need more women in the workplace. I'll paraphrase the words of Hamilton... "give us our shot!"

We all have a role to play in actively supporting and developing rising women. On top of that, our leaders — be they any gender — should be driving change and challenging traditional views of women in the industry, not to mention opening up conversations around how women in leadership roles are to be supported if they choose to have children. 

If we focus on looking forward to women being a vital part of our future, then I think that's a great place to start. 

What is the role of government in attracting more women into STEM-based qualifications?

Governments should encourage levelling the playing field, breaking down social barriers and old norms (and that perhaps is not just about women, it's about equality) and investing in government school's development of skills in STEM. 

They also play an influential role in marketing STEM-based qualifications, ensuring campaigns represent both men and women. It doesn't end here. It is then up to our learning institutions who have a role to play in positioning STEM early. 

For example, at the crux of it, technology is just applied maths. Let's take away the groaning and eye-rolling associated with these fields from parents and children alike (surely I cannot be the only one who sat at the kitchen table with her dad crying over algebra?!). It's across all levels; I'm talking about a huge and generational shift. 

What can women do to help themselves and their peers drive a more diverse and inclusive IT industry in Australia?

Well, that's really why I'm answering these questions! We need the platforms and the opportunities to spread the word and shrug off the misconceptions and be consciously aware of our limiting beliefs. We need to encourage every woman you find to be a part of something much more than just 'tech', 'maths' or 'science'. 

When I looked to begin my career in technology, I was told that I would be successful because I was a woman in tech. I hope that no woman will ever be successful because she is a 'woman in Tech', but because she is an absolute boss at her job. 

So go tell your friends!