By David Swan
Some of Australian technology’s most accomplished women have spoken about their experiences ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, calling out what they say is an often-uncomfortable culture still dominated by men.
Although many think diversity in technology is improving, the statistics show that in Australia the percentage of women in technical roles remains flat.
Susan Entwisle, assistant vice-president of Cognizant Digital Business, said women were under-represented in the global tech sector, and therefore missed out on career opportunities.
“I have faced challenges relating to stereotypes and biases. For example, preconceived notions of leadership style, technical capabilities, mansplaining and men interrupting me,” she said. “I do not come from privilege. I was a mature-age student who progressed from TAFE to PhD while working full-time over a 10-year period, and it wasn’t easy.”
Her advice to women is to be bold, set goals and commit to them. “Take setbacks in your stride and learn from them, do not quit. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone. And focus on unlocking the potential in others to uplift individuals and organisations.”
Jen Marshall, chief product officer at media monitoring firm Isentia, said she had faced many challenges during her 22-year career, many relating to gender.
She said before joining Isentia she was passed over for a promotion at a different company, with an external applicant hired. “There was no formal interview process and I wasn’t given an opportunity to be considered or even make my case,” she said.
“The whole situation left me feeling incredibly discouraged.”
Ms Marshall said the experience, though disheartening, made her realise the power of self-improvement and determination.
“Rather than giving up, I set out to clearly identify my goals and put plans in place to achieve them. I invested in my product management capabilities as well as my soft skills — a process that spanned many years — which ultimately paid off,” she said. “Do not allow one bad experience to determine your self-worth or the trajectory of your career. To the next generation of technology leaders … I would say don’t let setbacks define your future.”
Angela Logan-Bell, the partner alliances manager at cloud computing provider Rackspace, said gender had been more of an issue throughout her career than she would’ve thought.
She said she had endured several frustrating and uncomfortable situations that required her to take action. “There have also been some significant learning experiences where I have come to understand the importance of humility, accepting and requesting feedback and asking for help. These lessons have stayed with me,” she said.
“When it comes to how you want to be treated and regarded, be confident in your beliefs, always stand up for yourself and be very clear on what is and isn’t acceptable in a workplace.”
Inga Latham is the chief product officer at Australian fast-growing tech company SiteMinder. She said a lot had changed since she entered the industry in the early 2000s, with a growing recognition of the importance of diversity.
"One of my key leanings is to be yourself. Ignore the stereotypes and don’t change your personality for your career," she said.
“By choosing to be my authentic self at the office, I believe I give the people around me the permission to do the same. I’m many things to many different people outside of my job, including a mother, wife and friend, so by being real and not hiding these roles, and the responsibilities that come with them, I hope I enable everyone around me to share as much of themselves as they are comfortable with.”
Mary-Sue Rogers, catalyst leader at ForPurposeCo, said her biggest lesson was that to be successful in building a business, it was important to spend more time working on the business, than in the business.
“It is important to develop an incredibly diverse set of connections across a vast range of industries, particularly for women as it seems men still get more done through the ‘old boys network”.