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IWD 2024: Why inclusion needs to be more than just a noble aspiration
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

I’ve long been of the belief that good leaders do more than merely lead – rather, they make it their business to empower others within their own teams and across their personal and professional networks.

That’s why I have my eye out on the daily, for individuals who have the motivation and potential to progress through the ranks, into roles of greater responsibility and challenge. 

When they come into view, I’m delighted to arrange and provide whatever they need to keep moving in the right direction, be that training, mentorship or introductions to colleagues and connections who can help them on their journeys.

Giving new recruits a stronger start

In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of doing so for many up-and-coming women who are determined to foster successful careers for themselves in the fast-moving IT sector. 

It helps that the area in which I work – I’m the vice president of customer experience, APAC, at Dynatrace, a global leader in software observability – is something of a training ground for rookie recruits. 

It’s a place where they can gain a broad understanding of the sector and some insight into how customers tick before moving on to ‘bigger and better’ things in our organisation or elsewhere in the industry.

If I’m not actively encouraging them to do so, I’m not doing my job.

Take a chance on me

Part of the reason I’m so passionate about giving others every chance to succeed is that I owe some of my own professional success to someone who took a chance on me back in the day.

After starting my working life in the hyper-masculine super yacht sector in the 1990s – tell-all book to come when the time is ripe! – I segued into the exhibition space in 2003. Back then, it was, like the world of big boats and even bigger egos, an environment where women had yet to make a dent. 

Some time after I joined, one of the managers I reported to let slip that he, personally, would not have hired someone like me for fear I’d not be able to hold my own with contractors, out on the showroom floor.

He was also gracious enough to acknowledge that he’d been 100% wrong in his initial impression and that his colleague who’d hired me had made a sound choice.

Having seen me get amongst it, and get things done, this one-time doubter subsequently became one of my greatest supporters and a friend to boot. 

The power of difference

It was a valuable lesson for him about the benefits that can ensue when you don’t judge a book by its cover.

And it’s why I’m a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace – for giving less obvious contenders the chance to step up and shine.

My experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior leader has shown me – repeatedly – that having people with different backgrounds, strengths and perspectives on the team and at the leadership table invariably leads to smarter decision making and better outcomes.

That a growing body of research bears this out is hardly surprising.

Opening up opportunities for all

In the male-dominated ICT world where I’ve worked for the past 12 years – yes, there is something of a pattern emerging here! – we still have a considerable gender imbalance to address. 

Women hold 29% of the jobs in the Australian IT sector, according to the Australian Computer Society’s 2021 Digital Pulse report, and the under-representation is even more extreme in the senior ranks. There, women hold just 18 and 22% of CEO and board positions, respectively.

To even up the scales, we need to ensure we’re attracting and including motivated, capable women. And we need to do that not in a piecemeal fashion but strategically and systemically at all levels and in all aspects of operations.

From technical consulting and support, through to sales, marketing, account management and customer success, there should be opportunities aplenty for women to contribute and succeed.

Enabling success 

As influencers and decision makers in the sector, we need to keep trying even harder, to open up those opportunities: to identify the high calibre candidates, funnel them into structured talent pipelines and pull out all the stops to enable them to thrive.

That’s been my personal mission since attaining a leadership role, and that’s why, from my perspective, the theme of International Women’s Day 2024, ‘inspiring inclusion’ could not be more apposite.