A Diverse Women in Tech event was recently held at the City of Perth and presented by CCIWA Member nbn and Women in Technology WA as part of both organisations’ commitment to advancing women and diversity in Australia.
The sold-out event, on September 9, shone a light on a local group of highly talented and diverse women working in leadership roles and provided a platform for them to openly share their insights, experiences and visions for the future as entrepreneurs and business leaders in the tech industry.
The panel of speakers included Bec Nguyen, founder and director of Upbeat Digital; Dr Eunice Sari, CEO and co-founder of UX Indonesia; and Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker, Nyungar technologist, writer, and digital rights activist and was moderated by Eva Chye, founder of If Innovation Could Talk.
Reflecting on the event, Nguyen gave her thoughts on the day. Her powerful insights described the behaviour she experienced when gender and cultural diversity are at play in the workplace, with a call-out for leaders to step-up and lead.
Bec Nguyen, founder and director of Upbeat Digital
“Just recently, I had the opportunity to practice what I preach. I walked the walk. I found my voice to share my experiences of the lack of diversity in the tech industry. I had a courageous conversation. Only this time it wasn’t a one-on-one. This time, to a full room of attendees at a sold-out event.
I spoke about the constant battle for diversity on top of gender equality — the double glass ceiling that women of colour face every day.
I spoke about having my award winning technical and professional capabilities repeatedly questioned and decisions overruled by white males who did not even hold the technical qualification required to make an informed decision.
I described how colleagues would often act defensive when the company’s commitment to diversity was questioned, and would repeat all the known excuses for why we were lacking: ‘..it really depends on the applicants we receive … we’re really just looking for skillset and qualifications …’ or ‘we went with this applicant instead because they’re a better cultural fit for the team.’
So, what does ‘cultural fit’ mean and how can it even possibly be predicted? Cultural fit is code for comfort fit — that they chose a person who would think, speak and act the same, so they are comfortable. And therein lies the unspoken and unseen cloning bias.
Time again, year after year, I would spend days building up the courage to speak up in the hopes of hearing just one supportive response to my call that greater diversity would make us a better organisation.
When I finally did hear it, ‘You’re right – we need more diversity in our team. We can do better, and we will’ it was during my four-week resignation notice period. I had had enough.
I always encourage woman to self-promote and how important it is to believe in yourself — to be able to talk about your achievements, apply for a promotion or for that position, or nominate yourself (or your fellow female peers) for that award that you more than anyone rightfully deserve.
I believe in the importance of having mentors, a support network, or a ‘hype’ team. Without mine constantly cheering me on or lifting me up and providing me with the guidance and support when I needed it most, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
This is a courageous conversation, but why in the most culturally diverse State in the nation, on the doorstep of the Asian economic powerhouse …. are we struggling with this conversation, when we can be a global diversity leader? This is what all of the speakers are working hard to see, because ‘if you can see her, you can be her’.”
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