I am often asked about my motivation for co-founding the #TechDiversity alliance, and it does go further than simply my being a woman.
Firstly I have a strong sense of equality across the board. We should all be treated based on our capabilities and expertise, not on any perceived benefit (or otherwise) we receive through race, position or gender. (This is also why I started Mia: to give businesses the leg-up they need to compete evenly for government business.)
My other strong passion is for industry development. We need to embrace the talents of all members of the community for Australia to take the lead in technology and to experience the diversity other countries enjoy.
But, it must be said the fact that I am a woman in an industry in which women continue to face an uphill battle for voice and recognition, makes the establishment of #TechDiversity deeply personal for me.
The extra battles women face
It can be tiring running a business as a woman — and NOT due to the clichéd assumptions of running a family or raising children. It’s because, in my experience, women have to run a few hundred metres before even getting to the start line.
Women in tech industries are almost always significantly outnumbered in any business situation – whether we’re only two out of the 12 people in a meeting, or 15% of delegates at a conference, listening to male-dominated panel discussions. At times, I feel I need to prove I deserve to be there – let alone have a voice.
Because there are certain underlying expectations of what women should be, how we should act. This “head trash” is unfortunately founded in deep-seated cultural biases that determine how girls and boys are raised to act and think and speak.
Combating these expectations takes courage and self-belief and the type of cultural change we are targeting with #TechDiversity.
I know it’s not for want of trying by industry and education institutions to get greater female involvement. But do men understand how tiring it can be as a woman in business facing these subtle (often not-so-subtle) battles every single day? No wonder women leave corporates mid-career to focus on entrepreneurial work that can be so fulfilling and kinder to one’s own self.
Take a stand against discrimination
Education and awareness are key — formal and informal. The greater awareness of issues impacting diversity, the more we can learn that they do exist and how to combat them.
Consider the recent controversy when certain Triple M radio personalities, in particular Eddie McGuire, made disparaging and violent comments about journalist Caroline Wilson. The comments and lack of true remorse from McGuire were appalling; however, one positive outcome has been to raise the issue that women do take the back seat.
Everyone, both women and men, has become desensitised to the problem. We take incidental discrimination in our stride, thinking “it’s ok”, “that always happens” or “I expected that to happen”.
Here’s another example: the You Tube campaign Always #LikeAGirl. (Please watch!)
Why is it acceptable to think being a girl is something to be ashamed of and to make fun of? And it’s not just men. It’s women too. This insidious discrimination has to stop.
So I have worked hard to get #TechDiversity off the ground. I have learnt so much from the inspiring men and women in the team, making me a more effective businesswoman and a much better mother and role model. I intend to keep learning as much as possible from all members of the alliance.
Recently, I called someone out on their “uninclusive” behaviour for the first time. This man’s behaviour hurt me and, just like Eddie McGuire’s comments, was absolutely accepted by the men around him. Before my journey with #TechDiversity I would never have had the courage to do that — but I made the hard phone call. Even though I was nervous, I did it for me and all the women that will encounter the same discrimination.
This is our vision for #TechDiversity: helping others and ourselves to be courageous and committed enough to act, to take initiative and demonstrate leadership, with the long-term view to achieving true equality and a voice for all.
This post first appeared on the Mia website and blog.
Nominations for the inaugural #TechDiversity Awards close TODAY Tuesday 28 June (midnight). It’s free to enter — submit nomination form here.
About Deirdre Diamante
As well as being a co-founder of #TechDiversity, Deirdre Diamante is Director and co-founder of Mia, a company providing specialist advice on business and procurement practices in the public and private sectors, with a particular focus on helping companies generate business opportunities with government. Based on 15 years of experience in procurement and governance roles, Deirdre’s intimate knowledge of public sector procurement environments makes her a sought-after advisor by commercial and public sector organisations alike. miaconsulting.com.au