It started off with small talk between myself and my fantastic hairdresser, Jasmine, but things really got interesting when we got to the ‘are you doing anything special later’ question.
I took great delight in telling Jasmine that I was moderating a panel that celebrates women who code and how women in the tech industry are using creativity and technology as their superpower. I was really looking forward to it as it was part of the launch of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever screening.
Jasmine started telling me her story of winning a Tech Girls Movement Foundation competition many years ago and as part of an all-girls tech team, they won a free trip to Silicon Valley in the States.
The irony wasn’t lost on me, I was getting ready to moderate a panel featuring women who moved from non-technical creative roles into tech and here I was speaking with a girl who was on the cusp of a career in technology who moved into the creative career of hairdressing.
I had heard of the Tech Girls Movement Foundation because of the work I do with TechDiversity and I know their fearless leader Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen OAM.
I grabbed my mobile phone and sent a message to Jenine, I had to get answers to my burning questions…
How did we lose Jasmine from the tech sector?
But more importantly, what’s the best pathway for us to get her back?
Just to be clear, I am not holding the Tech Girls Movement Foundation responsible. To date, they have engaged 14,000+ girls in more than 100,000+ hours of digital technologies in their STEM programs over the past decade. In fact, they are celebrating their 10th year anniversary next year and are hosting 10 Year TechGirl Anniversary Galas, for those wanting to drive meaningful workforce change in gender and wider workforce equity.
So who is responsible?
Well, I have said this many times, the tech sector has an identity crisis. Working in the tech sector still carries the misconception that you need to be a coder or of a technically minded aptitude to succeed.
Jasmine wasn’t a coder; she was the creative individual who worked with coders as a team that earned them a place on the Silicon Valley trip.
If the tech sector positioned itself as an exciting, purpose-led industry that needs non-technical creative professionals, then I think I may have potentially bumped into Jasmine on the Black Panther panel and not in the hairdressers.
But let’s also look at gender as a potential barrier, according to research conducted by the Tech Council of Australia in conjunction with Accenture, there are strong demographic skews in tech jobs, with women, older Australians and regional Australians being under-represented – 74% of tech workers are men.
The report also said that, just 1 in 10 people studying a university qualification in tech are women, and only 1 in 4 people working in the industry are women. They advise that more equal representation in training pathways would significantly grow the tech workforce in Australia.
We need greater investment from leaders within the tech sector to showcase that it as an exciting career choice, to work closely with universities and schools, to encourage students who are studying arts, culture, creativity to consider a career in tech.
I say, Let’s put the ‘A’ (Arts) back in STEM.
Research from McCrindle states that four in five Gen Z (80%) want to work with cutting-edge technology in their future career and almost all Gen Z (98%) have used technology as part of their formal education. This is exciting, but let’s make sure that we have creative, artistic minds as part of this percentage. Let’s change things now because in 2030, Gen Z will represent a third of the Australian workforce.
The future is bright, the Government funded 20,000 university places for disadvantaged students in a bid to address skills shortages, let’s make sure that the tech sector educates and nurtures these students to change the perception of the tech sector as a coders paradise.
The tech sector is one of the most suited career pathways to Generation Z, according to Deloitte, this generation has an entirely unique perspective compared to millennials on careers and how to define success in life and in the workforce.
I love this paragraph from Deloitte…
‘To win the hearts of Generation Z, companies and employers will need to highlight their efforts to be good global citizens. And actions speak louder than words: Companies must demonstrate their commitment to a broader set of societal challenges such as sustainability, climate change, and hunger’.
Another great reason to work in tech? Well Monarch University ranks technology jobs as among the highest paying jobs in Australia.
Universities need to work on how it markets career pathways to universities and the tech sector needs to support them. I came across this description on a website for students when choosing a career in technology.
Experts in the field indicate (that’s us, the tech sector) that these are the skills necessary to perform well in a technology career.
- Ability to work under pressure
- Coding and programming language knowledge
- Interest in new technologies
- High interest in computer systems
- Logical thinking
A glaring omission for me is the need for creativity. How is the tech sector going to thrive without a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers, digital marketers, graphic designers, and idea generators?
I’m delighted that my marketing agency Best Case Scenario gets to support initiatives such as the UTS Start Up Summit hosted by UTS in mid 2023, where 6,000 students will be inspired and supported by tech enabled careers.
So, this brings me onto what’s not to love about tech?
- Technology helps healthcare professionals catch and treat diseases faster, therefore saving lives.
- New technologies have led to more sustainable methodologies and help in the fight against climate change
- It’s been used in developing countries to give internet access to rural areas and encourage the use of technology to create progress in communities.
As the Chinese philosopher Confucius said…
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
My message to the tech sector is, we have something great, so let’s share it and let’s start now to build diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces so everyone has a chance to be part of the tech sector.
Executive Director, TechDiversity Foundation
The TechDiversity Awards are seeking nominations of initiatives that have demonstrated leadership of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) across all gender and minority groups within the Australian Tech Sector.
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