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IWD 2024: The demand for more women in tech deepens
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

As the technology sector continues to boom, new and varied expertise is becoming sought after. There’s an underlying belief that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related professions are highly mechanical and formulaic, with days filled with computer programming or working on IT helpdesks. This label doesn’t typically offer widespread appeal, but in fact, there are an abundance of technology roles that should appeal more broadly as the work delivers real-word impact in industry, society and the environment. As a major driver in a strong, future-proofed economy, the technology sector requires greater diversity, including greater inclusion for women and girls everywhere. We need to ‘Inspire Inclusion.' This year’s global theme couldn’t ring truer as the need for more women in technology deepens.

While all individuals, no matter gender, have varied passion areas and interests, in my two decades working in human resources, we find women particularly excel in their abilities to communicate effectively, foster collaboration and show empathy. For the past ten years I have worked at data and AI leader, SAS, and I can attest that these skills are incredibly important in technology companies and in hot demand. Not only are these talents essential for engaging and motivating teams, but as technology innovation skyrockets and with the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) tools everywhere, these skills are becoming indispensable. 

Jobs that give back to the economy and the planet

Many women are also attracted to positions that give back to the community. Statistics show that women are far more likely to stay invested in a high-tech field if they are producing work that is meaningful and focused on creative problem-solving. For instance, a recent report by Engineers Australia, ‘Women in Engineering’, shares that a key driver for women to pursue a career in engineering comes down to the potential to make a positive difference in their society and environment. 

Technology advancements are driving breakthrough research and innovation that’s steering a greener future, posing fascinating career pathways for more women to consider. At SAS, we believe in using data for good and helping businesses develop the roadmaps they need to turn their life-changing ideas into reality. For instance, our team works with WildTrack researchers to explore how AI and crowdsourced animal footprint data could help find answers to global conservation questions. We know that diversity helps us in using data for good as we consider new ways of approaching old problems and emerging technologies. 

It’s an engaging sector that is ever changing and provides opportunity for real-world impact, continuous learning and career growth – we need more women benefiting from this exciting - and exhilarating - world of innovation!

Encouraging more women to blossom in STEM

There are fascinating STEM roles and career paths for more women to consider, and we need better ways of inspiring their education and funnelling their access into the workforce. It’s important we inspire girls and young women to enter the STEM sector, and working with organisations such as Explore Careers plays an important role in showcasing career options to students, as well as spotlighting female leaders in technology so that young women can see themselves in our industry. 

We also need to demonstrate ways the career path offers a fruitful, flexible work-life balance. We are fortunate in the technology industry to be able to provide flexible work environments, with many organisations supportive of ‘work from anywhere’ style arrangements. Women continue to face ‘bias-based’ barriers for achieving equal participation in the sector and broader economy, as they often take on more carer responsibilities. Offering flexibility in work is an effective means of enabling women to have equal participation in the workplace. These policies should also help normalise men flexibly working so there is a more equal distribution of carer responsibilities.

Smart technology and empowering initiatives inspire diversity and inclusion

Businesses can also lean into smart technology for their recruitment drives, which analyses data throughout their selection process to monitor the diversity of the candidates they’re attracting to roles. This helps inform where you can focus your talent attraction strategies to encourage more candidate diversity. For instance, we recently noticed a trend that more female candidates were applying for our Early Career internship programs. We’ve taken this insight to increase the number of intern positions we hire each year as a means of building a diverse talent pipeline.

HR and Hiring Managers should complete frequent training that encourages hiring decisions based on candidate potential rather than on experience alone. It should cover unconscious bias training, interview techniques and interview best practices that help promote diversity. 

As we seek to give women equal opportunity to learn, earn and lead, nurturing women in technology is critical in driving their retention and growth, as well as fostering mentoring and growing female interest in the industry more broadly. For instance, our Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) employee inclusion group is a community of SAS employees with the mission to help one another achieve personal satisfaction and professional excellence. 

In the journey towards balancing the gender scales in technology, it’s critical that workplace cultures create an environment where all employees feel trusted, safe and respected so they are more likely to openly contribute their ideas and thoughts. Frequent employee surveys assessing effectiveness in this area is an important tool in keeping a pulse on this.

I want to see more women with an interest in technology backing themselves and their continued self-development and growth. Believe in your potential and take a risk when you see an opportunity - you could be part of creating something truly innovative that even gives back to the planet.