Addressing the “diversity dilemma,” one baby step at a time

Paula Ngov, Partnerships and Community Engagement Principal , DiUS

UntitledOn Day Two of Agile Australia, John Sullivan and I presented to raise awareness of the gender diversity dilemma in the technology industry.

We wanted to:

  • Communicate why it is a dilemma,
  • Talk about why diversity is needed, and
  • Let people know what they can do to help address the challenge


The feedback we received made it clear that the audience took on board our practical tactics on how to attract and retain women in tech roles. It’s important to note that if we in fact do well in recruiting and retaining females in each of our organisations, we will inevitably see a “revolving door” type of pattern. That is, talented women moving from one technology team to the next.

Thinking bigger, more technology talent is needed for our future. Technology will play a huge part in creating a bright future for our society, which means it impacts all of us.

So what can we do?

We need to increase the number of people (and women) choosing a technology-based career. And we need to start today.

You might be thinking that there is not a lot you can actually do to influence this situation. You’d be wrong.Here are three actions that I believe that anyone can take.

1. Talk ourselves up

Two chilling anecdotes that show that IT has an image problem (to both males and females) are etched in my memory. And these underscore that this challenge starts young.

  • Me interviewing a 10 year old: “So, do you know what IT stands for?”
    Interviewee: “I don’t know what the abbreviation means exactly, but I know what IT means. IT are the people that come to our classroom and fix our computers when they are broken”.
  • Me speaking to a technical tester: “So, Paula you would not believe what happened. I got invited to speak at my daughter’s primary school about my interesting career. When asked why they thought my career was interesting, the teacher said to me ‘Oh, your daughter said you kill bugs for a living’”.

Start talking ourselves up. Find our elevator pitch. We can’t be lazy, modest or shy and say “I work in IT” when someone asks us what we do for work. Kids today would want to know about the challenging and fulfilling stuff we do. Not only is a tech career fast-paced and fun, it is pervasive and is likely to be required in all industries in the future – in some shape or form.

2. Support

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We need to support the organisations that live, breathe and exist to address the diversity dilemma, as well as the general talent pipeline issue.

Attend them, sponsor them, provide speakers for them or ask them to come and present to you.

  1. Act as role models

If you’re a female in technology and have a story to tell, share it. A great example of this is the wonderful and inspiring Beth Skurrie. After hearing a talk “Integration tests are a scam”, she got inspired to join the crusade and was attracted to an open source project called Pact.

Since her first public presentation, Beth has spoken and blogged numerous times and is now regularly asked to present at a variety of forums – from meetups to blue-chip organisations, worldwide. The most prestigious include YOW! Conference in 2014 and Agile Australia 2015.

So find your passion, connect to that cause and progress towards being a role model for the technology industry.

Please share your experiences or any gender diversity initiatives that you come across and tag them with the hashtag #beautyofTech.

The extended version of this article can be found here.

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