I came, I saw, I shared

An attendee’s review of the 2019 WITWA[+] Conference

If you can see her you can be her!

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WiTWA Conference 2019

Late last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural WiTWA conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Perth, along with a few of my colleagues Jess Todd, Tara Gindein, Kirsty Moffatt, Karen Stewart and Erin McGee.  

Women in Tech WA (WiTWA) support and develop women and young people in technology, science and innovation, as well as welcoming those who identify outside of these industries, hence the use of tech (+). The forum is gender inclusive and encourages membership from anyone who supports and champions their cause.  It was great to see so many people of all orientations, cultures and ages at the event.

WiTWA’s mission is to encourage business change to accommodate diversity and provide a network of support for women in technology, science and innovation. Aside from events and advocating for greater diversity in these fields, they also strive to inspire school students into technology careers through their techtrails school incursion program. 

What a fabulous day we had with presentations and debates, jam packed with stories of ingenuity, adversity and triumph from some extraordinary local, national and international speakers. We enjoyed Lyndsey Scott, Calvin Klein model and freelance iOS Developer. There was also the very funny and informative Dr Jenny Brockis.  We heard from Joshua Letcher, a space engineer, lucy Thomas Co-Founder of Project Rockit (focused on anti-bullying), Kate Kirwin, founder of SheCodes,and Ian Martinus a Trade and Investment Specialist.  There were so many other engaging and interesting speakers (too many to mention here). As well as the international role models there were stories from companies striving to achieve diversity and equality in tech industries, some professional-development style learning and an abundance of opportunities for WA’s tech[+] community to engage with each other throughout the day.

As well as having the opportunity to listen to the event speakers, Erin, Kirsty and myself were there as nominees for the [+] 2019 Conference and Tech Awards aimed at showcasing outstanding leaders and companies in tech[+] and inspiring action towards diversity and equality.  Although we didn’t walk away with any of the awards (there was some stiff competition) I enjoyed every moment. It was interesting that at the after-conference drinks one of the conference organisers mentioned to me without a hint of shame that many of the women that had been selected had submitted super personal statements and pictures, this she said in no small part due to their employer’s investment in professional photographs and submissions. I am sure this support made those women feel fantastic.

One of the legacies of that nomination means that we (and others nominated) are now included in WiTWA’s Inspiring Role Models page.  This has been borne as a response to an oft heard statement, …” We couldn’t find a woman for the job/panel/board…”. See that list here.

Supporting equity at work

I had some great conversations at the event.  There was a great deal of talk about supporting equity in the workplace.  Women are entering and staying in the workforce in greater numbers than ever before, so it is important for workplaces to ensure equity in their treatment.  Research suggests we are still earning less than our male peers, a disparity that starts at the graduate level and men continue to dominate leadership positions across most industries. Women who have children also continue to face a motherhood penalty and, come retirement, end up with significantly less in superannuation savings than men.

There are a few things that can be done to support women in the workplace:

  • Make equal pay a priority.  The total remuneration gender pay gap was found to be at 21.3% at the end of 2018, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
  • From there, employers should consider opportunities to help close and avoid these gaps, including by potentially allocating a pool of funds to make the necessary adjustments, and addressing new ways to negotiate salaries and set wages.
  • Also, employers must consider the economic security of women over the long-term, and consider paying superannuation during parental leave.
  • Another meaningful way a company can support women’s career development is through a sponsorship program not dissimilar mentoring. Many companies have seen success through setting targets for women in leadership positions, linking targets to performance reviews and even bonuses would help

Since women continue to be less likely to progress into managerial positions compared to their male colleagues. Currently, only 7% of ASX 200 chief executive officer positions are held by women and there are far fewer women than men in senior management positions at other Australian companies. So, it was good to see our Kinetic IT’s recent announcement, with the appointment of a female non-executive director.  

The future

One of the big announcements of the day was that the Tech [+] 20 Awards will expand next year, as they plan to add a fifth major award.  They are looking for nominations for ‘Outstanding Diversity Advocate’. What a wonderful idea, and certainly something that I am sure will give us all food for thought.

I’ll certainly be having a think about who I would nominate. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to thrust a few advocates from Kinetic IT into the limelight?

Author: Michelle Major-Goldsmith, Manager, Service Management Capability, Kinetic IT

Article written by Michelle Major-Goldsmith

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