Friday, 22 March 2019 10:27

Australian women say gender diversity in tech sector not a priority

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Australian women say gender diversity in tech sector not a priority Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Only half of Australian women currently working in tech globally feel that the tech industry today is prioritising gender diversity, according to newly released research.

The research commissioned by travel commerce company Booking.com also reveals that slightly more women currently in the field (55%) feel that their company is prioritising diversity efforts.

And while initiatives to close the gender gap and encourage more women into tech are having some success, the research also reveals that tech companies and the industry need to demonstrate greater commitment to nurturing female talent if they are to maintain a representative and skilled workforce and benefit culturally, financially and boost their reputation.

The latest World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report found that there is a widening inequality gap worldwide, despite the strong contributions being made by women across all aspects of business.

When asked about the benefits that increased gender diversity can bring to the tech industry, 92% of women in tech — and those students interested in pursuing a tech career — said it would help diversify the sector, bringing fresh perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. Women also increasingly feel their representation in the tech workforce will contribute to improved company and brand reputation (91%), as well as trust in tech companies in general (85%).

“Driving greater gender diversity in tech is as much about unearthing untapped talent as it is about supporting women who have already built the skills, knowledge and expertise in our sector, said Booking.com chief executive Gillian Tans.

“Over the last 10 years there have been significant changes to drive positive progress towards making the tech industry a more gender diverse place to work. We need to make sure that we continue this momentum.”

The research also found that currently, more than three in five female re-entrants to tech — or those who have taken a break and returned to the industry (64%) — view taking a career break as detrimental to their individual progression, and 63% believe the industry needs to actively do more to support their re-entry to the field.

However, a rise in "returnships", or re-entry schemes is raising hopes, with 64% of women returning to tech believing that such programs — often focused on training, re-skilling, upskilling and mentorships — are key to overcoming re-entry challenges. More than a third of those who have returned to the field (36%) consider regular upskilling opportunities to be essential to their success in tech.

Booking.com says encouragingly, these programs are empowering women with the skills and support they need to progress. In fact, 61% of re-entrants say they had access to a mentor upon their return to work – something women in tech identified as essential to their career success. Sixty-three percent also say their company helped them update their technical or other skills following a return.

“At Booking.com, we have long believed in investing in mentoring and recognition programs that support the continued development of women in tech - such as our scholarships program and the Booking.com Technology Playmaker Awards,” said Tans.

“Women bring tremendous value that can positively impact both tech companies and the industry globally and should be part of proactive initiatives focused on inclusivity, retention and skills development.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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