IT Brief Australia - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
Story image
IWD 2024: Driving inclusion - Lessons I learnt from the automotive sector
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

Yes, it is possible to change the culture in male-dominated organisations and industries, so all feel welcome and comfortable.

A workforce where women are outnumbered by more than two to one, with an even more significant gender imbalance in management levels…No, I’m not talking about a typical Australian ICT organisation, although I well could be.

In fact, what I’m describing is the traditional status quo for businesses operating in another traditionally male-dominated industry: automotive.

Prior to taking up the role of Head of HR – Pacific, APAC at AVEVA in December 2024, I had the good fortune to spend six and a half years working for one of the country’s largest players in the Automotive retail sector. 

Commencing the diversity journey

The organisation had already launched a diversity program when I joined in late 2017. Designed to drive the Inclusion and empowerment of its female employees, it was clearly working well for both the participants and the business. 

Its impact was, however, limited because of the size of the cohort within the program. When the cohort you’re engaging with is small, it’s difficult to create the ‘ripple effect’ generally needed to maintain momentum and to effect lasting, systemic change.

After joining the company and with strong support from the Executive team, we were given the green light to modify the program and create a stronger reach.

Scaling it up

Over the subsequent years, the team and I did just that: expanding the program to a multi-pronged approach to improve the workplace and culture. 

With the help of a specialist Diversity & Inclusion consultancy, we continued to develop and support our initial cohort of female participants; keeping them challenged and engaged, and supporting their progress to general management and leadership positions across the Group.

We also, and perhaps most importantly, developed a program that set about changing the mindset of the male leaders in the business and addressing unconscious bias or industry norms that were not assisting in attracting more women into what is a complex and exciting industry.  

By raising awareness of unconscious bias and encouraging leaders to identify and tackle the industry norms that made the sector a difficult place for women to thrive, we fostered a team of committed allies who worked to instigate change in their own businesses.

Lessons learnt on the journey

All up, it was quite the ride, and I will be forever grateful for working in such a dynamic industry! And along the way, I learnt some valuable lessons about how diversity, equity & Inclusion is best done. They are as follows:

  • For optimum results, it pays to listen to your workforce. It’s all too easy to assume we know what needs to be done, but the truth is, we don’t always. Engaging with teams and minority groups within the workforce is the only way to gain a fulsome appreciation of the challenges that need to be addressed.
  • Best practice isn’t necessarily what your counterparts or competitors are doing. Find out what’s worked, or is working, for ahead-of-the-curve organisations outside your industry or sector and look for opportunities to replicate their programs and practices – modified if necessary – in your own workplace.  
  • And lastly, don’t be afraid to enlist expert assistance. Diversity and Inclusion specialists can help determine where your investment and efforts are best focused and make it easier for you to transform good intentions into measurable improvements. AVEVA has a team of specialists located in all three global regions driving our five-year Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.  

Inclusion isn’t about the best gimmick or initiative. It’s about ensuring that all persons have the opportunity to be heard and feel comfortable and empowered to speak up. Inclusion is one of the most powerful tools for any business, particularly a global business like AVEVA, servicing stakeholders across the world and across industries. Inclusion brings with it diversity of thought, experience, and expertise, giving people and teams the ability to problem solve and innovate in a way that transcends or overcomes any issue or opportunity. 

From auto to ICT

Since my segue into ICT earlier this year, I’ve been able to observe how this equally male dominated sector is breaking down the barriers for women and I’m incredibly heartened by what I’ve seen so far.

Here at AVEVA, for instance, there’s a genuine commitment to tackling the gender imbalance with the setting of clear 2030 gender targets, but importantly beyond this, also a holistic diversity, equity & inclusion program that focuses not only on gender but also race and ethnicity, religion, faith or belief, disability and sexual orientation.

To that end, the organisation is investing heavily in diversity, equity and inclusion programs whose ultimate aim is to create an inclusive environment where everyone is respected, valued, belongs and is supported to take up positions of greater responsibility.

While overnight improvements to longstanding status quos are unrealistic, we are seeing some great results and they’ll continue to compound, as we see a more diverse workforce grow through the business. 

As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, I’m energised by the prospect of playing a small part in every one of their success stories.