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IWD 2020 interview: Communications advisor Rachel Rayner

08 Mar 2020

As a celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re running a series of interviews with women in technology. Communications advisor to the tech industry, Rachel Rayner, shares her thoughts.

What does the tech industry need to do to attract more women?

The communications industry is women-dominated (the old, tired “women talk too much” adage productively channelled), so some of the instant hurdles in other industries are subdued. However, the upper echelons are still the enclave of men. 

Within the tech industry there are extra challenges that female communications professionals face. The issue is that we (us talented women communicators) are frequently mistrusted to tell those messages and to choose which part of an organisation’s story appeals to various audiences. 

The industries hiring communication professionals need to trust us to do our jobs, and understand that they don’t know the field like we do. We can understand the technology and find the audiences to which communicate these stories best. 

An increase in trust and respect for the communications profession needs to be improved so women remain encouraged in these roles within technological companies. 

In general, it starts with the manager in the organisation: if you’ve hired me to do your communications, trust me to know what I’m doing. My tact only goes so far - your PowerPoint slides are ugly and you’re missing the audience needs, so listen to me when I say, “perhaps we can do this better”.

What does the tech industry need to do to encourage more female leadership?

The tech industry needs to support their communications and their communicator women better, then they’ll see the return in long-term company growth, and short-term sales.  

Is there anything else you would like to add?

In my specific field of science communication, the gender ratio is heavily skewed towards women. For example, the ANU’s Masters in Science Communication (Outreach), consistently have more women in the cohort - women from research labs across the country that have turned to communications for a career change. 

The field of science communication is the bucket beneath the "leaky pipe problem” where women are falling out of research roles at universities and institutions, sometimes based on institutional sexism. 

On the upside, it is great that this incredible talent is still remaining in the broader science industry, telling the important stories to multiple audiences. The tech industry could learn a lot from this model.

*Image credit: Ocean Explorations Trust, 2016.

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