by Rebecca Merrett

Don’t overlook the creative side of technology skills: Girls in Tech founder

Feb 08, 2016

There is a whole lot of untapped tech workers in the market with creative skills, many of whom are women, but most companies don’t yet realise it, says the founder of Girls in Tech, Adriana Gascoigne.

Creative skills are usually not associated with roles in IT, but it’s this kind of ignorance about creativity that can hold companies back from innovating, and make it difficult for women to enter the IT field, she said.

“I do think that many companies overlook things and do not see the connection between creativity and utilising different types of resources to get to the end goal. They just focus more on technical, specific coding languages or certain platforms that people know.

“And they really just want to focus on that one person given their one expertise to accomplish the project, while ignoring the fact that there are so many creative ways to get to that end goal,” said Gascoigne, who is speaking at Pause Fest in Melbourne this week.

As the founder of Girls in Tech, which is to launch in Australia in the next three months, Gascoigne said she sees many women gravitate towards creative roles with a technical component such as app design and development, user experience, and so on.

However, Gascoigne said most of the job advertisements she has come across have focused strictly on programming, even though there might be roles that open themselves up to creativity.

“I think especially for high tech companies, in their processes they have more rigid rules in terms of the job descriptions, historical and traditional methods to hiring.

“You do have more creative women coming to the forefront to take those roles in terms of design and user experience, building out UI, UX and UE. More and more women are looking to take on those roles and are jumping into startups.

“What needs to happen in the tech world is not to create ‘black and white’ job descriptions, but make nimble types of job descriptions or really helping restructure those job descriptions that entice more creative women.”

Gascoigne said there are great women engineers and programmers in this world, but they are not so visible in the tech community and don’t come in abundance, meaning lack of role models is an issue. She said she has seen more women role models in creative-type jobs, with younger women more likely to see themselves following this career path.

“For example, my best friend works at Tesla and she is the only female engineer out of 60 engineers.”

She said lack of exposure to work on technology projects is what is holding back many women from being able to progress in their career. Unconscious bias plays here, where many businesses don’t fully utilise their hybrid employees.

“You tend to trust the people that look like you, act like you, who like the same activities as you, who you have things in common with. So you bring them onto a project to work with you, you trust them more, you end up communicating with them more, and if women aren’t involved in that dialog, then they get isolated.

“If women are isolated from certain involvement in projects, then they don’t grow as fast, they are not as exposed to awesome opportunities in developing new projects and products.”

With skills in user experience to increase in demand this year due the growth of digital and mobile projects in companies, it’s important that companies’ tech and product development teams are as diverse as its consumers or market, Gascoigne said.

“Women are going to be thinking of the nuances and product features, from small to big things, that can really make an impact in terms of user acquisition, functionality, usability and growth.

“I think it really does make an impact when you have a diverse team because you are getting the feedback from the horse’s mouth, people who use the product and would benefit from the product.”

Gascoigne is also meeting with innovation advisors from the Department Prime Minister Cabinet this week to discuss lessons learned from her experience as a strategic advisor in Silicon Valley in helping women entrepreneurs launch their startups.