The issue of gender diversity in Australia is real and many businesses in technology should pave the way in fixing this issue, according to Diverse City Careers director and co-founder, Valeria Ignatieva. She claimed businesses should be encouraged to address the need for gender diversity and it has to happen from top down, regardless of if they’re a man or woman.
“Organisations with the highest share of women outperform companies with no women by 56 per cent in terms of operating results, and increasing female workforce participation by six per cent could add $25 billion to the nation.
“The bottom line is, companies are really missing out on a massive talent pool if they keep hiring people that conform to the 25-year old white male stereotype,” she told ARN.
Ignatieva claimed she noticed many women in the industry that previously held senior roles demote themselves to applying to part-time admin roles after having kids.
“It shouldn’t be that way. We’re losing out on so much talent and we need people to weigh in on that issue.”
As such, together with the other co-founder of Diverse City Careers, Gemma Lloyd, Ignatieva established the organisation in May 2015 to alleviate roadblocks that women face. Initially the organisation only ran a jobs board aimed at supporting women's careers.
“We wanted to create a jobs board for women that makes it easier for them to seek out employers that value women in leadership and respect diversity. That was the initial idea behind it and it grew towards being a social enterprise.
“As a mother with limited support options, my life would have been very different had it not been for the opportunities I’ve had to work flexibly. Through Diverse City Careers, I would love to help more women find a better way of working, whether they are juggling family, study or personal commitments,” Ignatieva said.
But now, the company has branched out to include webinars and events that spread the message. Diverse City Careers has most recently collaborated with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in creating an event to address how flexible workplaces will shape the success of companies in the future.
Diverse City Careers has been in partnership with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency over a few events, but its Equilibrium Man Challenge Pioneer Program (more commonly known as the eMan challenge) caught Ignatieva’s attention.
“The eMan challenge shadows the misconception that flexible working is just for mums. What it did was get senior men in organisations to adopt flexible working hours and record videos on the difference it has made to their lifestyles, and how they can spend more time with their families but still get the work done.”
That set the pace for another event the duo is working on – Driving a strategic approach to flexibility, a panel discussion on flexible workplaces and how it will shape the success of companies in future.
Ignatieva claimed the IT industry is among many struggling to attract and retain a diverse workforce and meet the needs of employees with caring or other responsibilities outside of work.
However, she claimed there are a number of companies that lead the way in this space and have plenty of advice to share. As such, this event will address:
- Business and social benefits of flexible working
- Real life examples of companies implementing flexible working successfully
- Challenges of flexible working and how to overcome them
- Fear-based myths about flexible working
- Leadership skills required to successfully manage flexibility
“The role CIOs should play will also be a key part of the discussions. We’re hoping to attract people that would like to see more changes in their work spaces and we’d like to go back and empower them with ways they can equip themselves in dealing with it,” she added.
The panel of speakers will include GHD chief information officer, Elizabeth Harper; Telstra customer service unit director, Reid Johnson; and Macquarie University’s Dr. Yvette Blount. ARN and Reseller News president and publisher, Susan Searle, will moderate.
Blount said anywhere working (other terms include telework, telecommuting, working from home) broadens the labour pool and provides opportunities to be more inclusive of women as well as part-time workers, workers with disabilities and workers transitioning to retirement.
She indicateed that although there are clear benefits for adopting anywhere working as a flexible work policy, there are some limitations. They include communication and coordination being more challenging. In addition, being 'seen' in the office is considered necessary for career progression in some organisations.
"If the office culture is one of working late, visibility and 'presenteeism', the worker may not be treated the same as their peers who work in an office.
Some unresolved issues to achieving greater flexibility include the skills for managing workers who have different work arrangements. Anywhere working creates new complexities in workplace dynamics for workers and their managers. The skill set of managers needs to include how to manage workers wherever they are located," she said.
The Driving a strategic approach to flexibility event is scheduled to take place on November 10 in Sydney and Diverse City Careers will be donating all ticket proceeds to the MAD Foundation, a volunteer run organisation that provides practical help to children with disabilities.
Ignatieva also spoke to ARN about another initiative Diverse City Careers has established – a partnership with Tech Girls are Superheroes, which involves real women depicted as superheroes to attract young girls into the ICT sector.
“We just want to show girls ICT is a cool career path. There’s so much education that needs to go on to improve the pipeline behind the scenes rather than fight over the small amount of women in IT at the moment.
“Some of our clients intend to as well, so we leverage each their goals and passion to make a difference. We’re looking forward to creating awareness about this,” she added.