Gender diversity and equality in the workplace is certainly in the spotlight right now. One particular sector where the divide is hard to ignore is technology. Over the years, many schemes have been devised to encourage more women into the industry, leading everyone to believe that things were improving.
That was until 2013, when a Pinterest programmer publicised that 90% of their engineers were male. Businesses such as Facebook followed suit a year later, revealing that only 15% of their technology roles were filled by women, whereas for non-technical jobs, the split was almost 50/50.This new level of transparency was a move in the right direction, but 3 years on, how have things changed?
Kellie Pevy, has over 15 years’ experience working in and teaching digital marketing. She now acts as a trainer and assessor for Open Colleges.
Here, she shares her expert opinion, and gives advice to women who are looking to start a career in technology or digital marketing.
How I got into the online marketing and technology industry
I created my own nationally accredited training organisation 16 years ago, running courses in floristry, retail, marketing and business management in Melbourne and Brisbane, before expanding into online learning. I got involved in the technology industry because if I didn’t, my business would have been left behind. I needed to use digital marketing to get my brand out there and be seen by customers. I found that I loved analysing consumer behaviours, looking at what drove purchases and understanding why people choose my business over a competitors (or vice versa).
Throughout this time, I have set up and established five florist shops, as well as my own event management company in Brisbane. More recently, I now provide marketing consultancy to businesses in the floristry sector, where they often rely heavily on digital. On top of that, I'm also a trainer for the BSB42415 Certificate IV in Marketing and Communication (Specialising in Digital Marketing) course at Open Colleges, helping others learn the fundamentals of marketing, whilst developing their digital marketing skills.
How things have changed
When I started out, the industry was very male dominated. Now when you look around a classroom, many students are female. The statistics show that only 24% of the technology industry workforce are women, but I see this as a big change from the 10% that Pinterest reported back in 2013 or 15% by Facebook in 2014.
In fact, in just 1 year, the number of female employees at Facebook increased to almost 29%. A survey also revealed that Australia is recruiting women in IT faster than other countries such as Germany, UK, Hong Kong and Japan.
This is definitely a positive step in the right direction, but there is still room for improvement. What’s important though is that there has been a change in attitude towards gender equality in technology and digital marketing careers, which is likely to facilitate further change in the future.
Why there is a lack of women in the technology industry
There are many complex reasons why women are resistant to enter the technology industry, including stereotyping, company cultures, job flexibility and education. The sector provides excellent opportunities though, so women really shouldn’t be put off, or feel threatened by a male-dominated environment.
For female students, you’re in an excellent position, as you’re part of the “digital savvy” generation and businesses are looking for fresh talent straight out of tertiary education, who possess enthusiasm and a different perspective.
Why the industry needs more women
The industry is now in desperate need for women, for a number of reasons. Women bring a new set of skills to the table, a more balanced perspective, a different way of thinking, drive, passion, as well as creativity and even financial benefits.
Combining the way both men and women work can only make teams stronger and a “more diverse industry means better output”.
How to get into the technology industry
Education is important, but it can be difficult to come out of formal learning with only theory behind you, if you haven’t applied this to any real world situations. It’s therefore important to get experience, as well as ensuring you have the drive and passion for what you do. You could start by volunteering or doing work experience.
For extra help, there are a lot of female networking groups, associations such as Women in Technology (WiT), government initiatives, funding opportunities and mentoring programs available. A lot of TAFE colleges are also starting to provide mentorship for graduates.
When I started, I was lucky enough to be part of a 12-month initiative of the Queensland Government. This really captured my attention and developed my passion for the marketing world; what I learnt from my mentors was invaluable.
Some courses you can take to get your foot in the door of the industry are:
- ICT40515 Certificate IV in Programming
- BSB42415 Certificate IV in Marketing and Communication (Specialising in Digital Marketing)
- ICT40115 Certificate IV in Information Technology
- 10118NAT Diploma of Social Media Marketing
How to get far in the industry
To be a successful female in the technology industry, don’t stand still. When I started in the industry, the Internet was just starting to become popular and sites like Facebook and Twitter were unheard of. Jump forward to today and people now want apps, Instagram and Snapchat. Technology and online advertising is constantly changing, so you need to keep up with industry trends.
It’s also important to have confidence. You may have an excellent idea, but you need self-belief to run with it and see it through. There may be failures and set-backs along the way, but it’s how you deal with these situations that makes you the stronger person and gives you the chance to achieve something great.
When people say it’s not possible to get far as a female in the technology industry, I say to look at Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook. Sheryl is not only the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board, she has also campaigned to change people’s perceptions.
Her non-profit organisation, Lean In, aims to empower women to help achieve their ambitions. She also encourages women to ask what they CAN do rather than what they CANNOT. Her latest campaign, #LeanInTogether takes a step further and gets men to think about the part they play in gender equality too.
Something I have been told by female mentors, which is especially relevant to females approaching the male-dominated technology industry, is “if it’s something that you want to go for, then there’s nothing stopping you”. Say “yes” to every opportunity and learn from your experiences!
Want to know more about Australian gender equality in education and the workplace? Discover how we got here with The Gender Equality Story.