Teams of Change Champions with Telstra and MIcrosoft CEOs to empower women tech leaders


Dr Cathy Foley, Chief Scientist of Australia. Origin: supplied.

Since 2010, the Champions of Change Coalition has reflected on ways to achieve gender equality in the workplace and advance a more diverse group of women in leadership.

This week, the group, with its 252 members, announced that it will work with CEOs of Telstra and Microsoft to design programs to reduce gender discrimination in the digital economy.

On Tuesday afternoon, around 30 tech executives and CEOs gathered in a virtual roundtable to discuss the importance of comprehensive communication and improved measures to counter public criticism that the group has been “whitewashed” – all talk and no action.

The Coalition issued 12 pledges to promote female leadership in the information technology sector, including mainstreaming gender equality in the development and use of digital technologies; apply gender equality expectations to subcontractors providing contingent labor; allocate funds to women entrepreneurs in angel investment and seed programs; and creating a talent pool for women in digital roles.

Each member of the Coalition will then decide independently which of these commitments it will apply.

During the panel discussion, Rachel Bondi, Partner Director of Microsoft Australia, presented a new “return” program, which is currently seeking partners.

The program offers a six-month professional training course in cyber / data analysis or cloud computing, with employment opportunities available during training and after graduation.

“We are not just talking about words, we are talking about action,” she told the Australian Financial Review.

The program will begin in early 2022, providing a route for women to enter an industry Bondi believes women “find intimidating.”

Steven Worrall, managing director of Microsoft in Australia and New Zealand, believes helping women get certified in programming skills will help them get started in the industry.

“We think it’s a model that can be scaled up,” he said.

Critical flexible work

During the panel discussion, Engineers Australia CEO Bronwyn Evans explained the benefits of introducing flexible working arrangements for his staff, including men. She believes this will allow women in the industry to avoid being penalized for juggling various family commitments.

“The risk – especially for women – of being overlooked when adopting flexibility is not as great,” she said.

“We are witnessing a democratization of the contribution thanks to virtual work [during COVID-19] which enables women to succeed in their careers.

“The much wider adoption of flexible (virtual) working has resulted in a democratization of contribution, allowing more women to truly succeed in their careers. As a very proud engineer, it’s great to see.

Phil Davis, regional managing director of Amazon Web Services, described the cloud provider’s global “SheDares” initiative, which offers free online resources to encourage professional women to consider careers in the tech industry. It also aims to improve access to jobs in cloud services, especially for women.

“We have had over 6,000 women enrolled and our goal is to reach over 40,000 by the end of the year,” said Davis.

“Demystifying the tech industry and providing access to partner programs could help women fill a ‘skills gap’ in the Asian workforce of 29 million jobs. ”

Elizabeth Broderick, founder of the Champions of Change Coalition, also attended the panel discussion.

The former gender discrimination commissioner said the debate on gender equality has been bogged down by “vaporware” in recent years and the focus has shifted to “action and tangible results. “.

“As we begin to extend these promising practices across the coalition, [we will] putting in place good monitoring and evaluation, so it’s not just a slogan, ”she said.

“We are talking about substantial results that have an impact, [and as] we learn from each other and raise together, we would also like to raise with the government. “

More data needed

According to the Australian Computer Society’s Digital Pulse 2021 report, women make up almost a third of Australia’s tech workers, compared to nearly 50% in similar jobs in professional, scientific and technical services.

The report concluded by saying that the figures reflect “long-held gender stereotypes about appropriate careers for men and women”.

Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley advised the Coalition to collect more comprehensive statistics when it runs layoff programs.

She also suggested that leaders push back on confidentiality requirements – that way women are protected.

“Organizations lose a lot of women when they restructure, and women often raise their hands in a voluntary process,” said Dr Foley.

“It’s something that hasn’t really been looked at, to understand why women walk.”

Telstra Health CEO Mary Foley spoke about how the healthcare industry is on the brink of a major digital revolution and women shouldn’t be overlooked during this critical time.

Foley’s team launched a networking group called “Brilliant Connected Women in Digital Health” in 2020 that celebrates superlative healthcare operators to help boost morale.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn said the program has increased the recruitment of women while also aiming to prevent “unconscious bias” in the digital ecosystem, especially given the pervasiveness of gender biases rooted in the industry. artificial intelligence technology industry.

“Technology developed with the needs of women in mind has the potential to be more marketable, cost effective, and increase safety and bottom line,” said Penn.

“As we begin to embrace technologies like AI, we need to make sure that we don’t entrench unconscious biases in the next big leap forward. We need to discuss the future of AI before the entrenched inequality of the past becomes the entrenched inequality of the future. “

Women’s Economic Security Minister Jane Hume told the roundtable that she would ask a national cabinet meeting next month to consider standardizing gender equality measures in the public sector.

It also hopes that these measures can be applied in the private sector.

“This is not a redistribution program or grandiose government largesse programs to compensate for the inequalities of the past, which then compound with dependency and disparities in the future,” said Hume, who is also Minister of Retirement Pensions, Financial Services and the Digital Economy.

“It’s about breaking down barriers, creating choices and opportunities, and giving women the best opportunities to create fulfilling lives on their own terms. “

This article was first published by Women’s agenda.

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