When my 8-year-old daughter came home from school and asked me, “Mum, is it true that men get paid more than women even if they have the same job?”, it made me more determined than ever to do what I can to help fix gender inequality in our industry.
As a Senior Manager in Technology at Accenture, I believe it’s our responsibility to make changes now so that young girls like my daughter have an equal playing field when they enter the workforce.
When I joined Accenture Technology 20 years ago I was the only woman on my team and often the only woman at client meetings. I’m happy to say a lot has changed since then, especially at Accenture. But there’s a lot more to do.
I recently joined some of Australia’s leading female technology executives at a roundtable event - “A New Diversity Agenda in Australia’s IT&T Sector”. Hosted by Nutanix, about 20 women came together from from a variety of industries – corporate, financial, start-ups – to discuss the challenges facing women in IT.
Despite the diversity of industries, we found the struggles facing women in Tech and IT roles were the same. Primarily, the exclusion from key networking events due to gender; juggling family and career which very often our male colleagues who don’t have kids, simply don’t understand or choose to ignore the struggles that women are facing. Despite the growing awareness of gender imbalance, the unconscious bias has continued to prevail in the industry.
A further topic that was discussed was the reality of the gender pay gap. Men are still being paid more than women in higher positions and it’s not until it’s openly discussed that the reality of the situation is revealed. I was really surprised at this. Even though I’ve read about it many times, I was surprised to hear that it is still occurring. The gender pay gap is real, especially in senior IT and Tech positions.
So how do we address it and what can we do about it? Some of the key take outs from the discussion were:
Support from male senior leaders:
Support and awareness from men in key senior positions is essential for change. This can be through mentoring younger female employees but also educating senior men about the pipeline of women coming through the ranks. Then when a position arises they don’t just think “well I’ll just get Jack because he’s my mate and we can go to the pub.” Very often, a female with children can’t go to those 5pm drinks (I personally can hardly ever go), and unfortunately a lot of hiring, opportunities and promotional talk is discussed at those times.
You’ve got to ask for what you want
Ask for what you want and don’t be afraid to do so. I got to a point in my career about nine years ago when I wanted to start a family and wondered how I was going to juggle that and my job. So I I asked for what I wanted and needed and I found the people here at Accenture supported me. I got the time off I needed, the flexibility I needed and then ended up getting to that promotion point that I wanted.
Shifting the mindset
You don’t have to work 20 hours a day to get what you need to do done. Nobody should or needs to work those hours. I know what I need to deliver and if I do it in two hours then we’re done. I don’t need to be at the office at 6am. I have to keep in mind that I have two girls that are looking up to me. If I have to pick my kids up at 3pm and there is still work to do – I can be back online to talk at 5pm if needed. It took me a while to get there but we need to pass that on to younger females in our organisation. If you can’t attend a meeting they can reschedule. If it goes ahead without you - they didn’t really need you in the first place.
Senior leaders need to lead by example and enact change.
I’m proud of the part I’ve played so far for girls in tech. I’ve helped engage thousands of girls in STEM entrepreneurship as a mentor in The Tech Girls Movement and I’ve introduced coding to hundreds of girls in schools through Accenture’s involvement with Tech Girls are Superheroes program and pledging to the Hour of Code initiative .
But with a shift in mindset and support from senior ranks – imagine the change that can happen!