Telstra, Microsoft: Equality in IT has a long way to go

While women have achieved equality by earning the right to vote, the equality of women in the technology sector has a long way to go, according to key IT leaders.

Speaking at the Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications (FITT) International Women’s Day luncheon in Sydney, Telstra’s marketing officer for market intelligence and customer analytics, Gloria Farler, and Microsoft Australia’s managing director, Pip Marlow, agreed that equality had still not been achieved.

“We all know the very sorry statistics about women in science and technology and there is a lot of talk about what we’re doing about it,” Farler said.

“…Suffrage and access to contraception are now embedded and while we’ve massively improved the position of women in society, here’s what we need to do: We didn’t change girls’ deeply embedded assumptions about being less worthy in some ways.”

Farler said encouraging girls to play video games while still at school was one key way to even out the playing field.

“Using games is a great way to encourage and help young women use code,” she said. “…This is a great way to not only get women to consider using technology, but also prepares them for business.”

Microsoft’s Pip Marlow, who was appointed managing director two months ago, said women are contesting with more than the glass ceiling.
“One of the things I think about is not only the glass ceiling but also the sticky floor — women often don’t do enough for themselves,” she said.

One way Marlow said women can excel is through the adoption of emerging technologies including social media.

“The internet takes away gender biases and allows women to participate in a conversation like they haven’t before in crowdsourcing,” Marlow said.

Marlow said she was not a fan of quotas to raise the level of female involvement in IT; rather, driving change from the bottom up was important to the sector.

“I think we have to continue to demonstrate why we have to drive the change. We need to mirror the market we serve,” she said.

“I believe that you can show that companies with diverse boards have a more sustainable success rate than those who don’t.”

Farler disagreed, saying that quotas provide a good benchmark for the industry.

“I personally believe in quotas because they are a good target,” she said. “…That doesn’t mean it’s a question of what reasonable people would disagree…I believe that if we measure, display or show a level of tolerance then meritocracy has to come up.”

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