5 women who've made it in IT

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So I built a really strong network of amazing women across the industry who I have either worked with or met through organisations such as FITT. For me, it’s been one of the things that has enabled me to be honest with how I’m feeling and build up my confidence.

Also, make sure that you are consciously making decisions to make an effort and to reach out and help others because, in my experience, in turns around and comes back to you in absolute spades.

Why is it so important to encourage more women to pursue a career in IT, and what needs to change?

It is absolutely known that companies that have a diverse workforce actually return more profit to shareholders, as they have more innovative ideas. It’s not just about increasing the number of women in your organisation; there are some real business benefits to it.

I also think not just focusing on the tech roles is important. I’m not in a technical role. Girls don’t necessarily think about doing marketing, for example, in IT. They don’t necessarily make the linkages and think about IT as being a viable industry to work in.

At SAP, one of things I was incredibly excited about and have pushed out to my kid’s school is a Young ICT Explorers competition. It’s annual competition, and it starts in Year 3 and it goes all the way up to Year 12. It actually encourages the youth to apply various ICT technology to practical challenges.

It’s not just about what program you create or the technical aspect of it. The kids that win these awards need to think about how they would market it, articulate the sales pitch, and why this technology that they’ve created should win the competition. Some of the kids did language learning apps and sensor controlled robots. The talent is staggering.

I think the sad thing, from what I’ve observed, is in Years 3-6 the gender mix is pretty balanced. As we start to hit high school we see the percentage of girl participants start to decline, and by the time we get to Year 12 the numbers really don’t look that great. I know other tech companies do similar programs, but I think it’s about how we as an industry forge together and help promote what each other is doing more and tackle this issue because it’s an industry-wide issue.

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Yvette Adams, founder of The Creative Collective; 2013 ICT Woman of the Year award winner

How did you get to where you are today?

I didn’t go to university; I just worked for the New Zealand government straight out of school in a communications role. Then I went to the UK, London and worked in mainly PR/marketing and media roles.

I came to Australia in 2004, worked for a couple companies and started The Creative Collective. It became a fully cloud-based business. I started hiring people, and in 2011 we moved out of being a home based business into a commercial warehouse I bought. Today, we’re a team of five staff, 30 contractors and five trainers. I actually split the business in to two as of 1 January 2014, into services and training divisions.

I fell into IT and I kind of straddle in two industries because I have one foot in the creative industry and one foot firmly in IT.

What do you enjoy most about working in IT?

I love that I do have a life. I’m not one of these business owners who can never catch a break. A great incentive is that you can work from anywhere through online or cloud-based systems. That gives me a balanced lifestyle, and I think a lot of women who have growing families deserve and need that.

I also love that it’s always changing. I am one of those people who gets bored pretty easily, so because it’s ever-changing it suits me to a T.

Why is it so important to encourage more women to pursue a career in IT, and what needs to change?

Women are completely different creatures and we approach everything differently. I’m not particularly technical; I know a little bit of code but not a lot. But you can get people around you who do know and create amazing things. I would love to see more women understand that concept and put themselves out there and see what they might be able to create because they may have the ideas, they just need the people to help them do it.

Women are their own worst enemies. A lot of women need encouragement and they quite possibly won’t put themselves out there. Whether it’s female or male colleagues, family or friends, we need to encourage a supportive environment where we encourage women to stick their hand up and go for those roles and have a go. We’re more than capable, but like I said we are just our own worst enemies.

I think a lot of women are intimidated by IT. They think you have to be highly intelligent and that it’s highly technical, and perhaps they think it might be a bit boring. But it actually involves a lot of creativity, problem solving, multitasking.

Also, kids need to learn code and technology skills like they do maths and literacy. I never used algebra or calculus. I don’t know why I learnt them at school. It would have been useful for me to have learnt how to code. Some do argue that you do need algebra or calculus for certain careers. But I argue back that coding would give you more options than algebra or calculus would.

The views in this article are those of the individuals quoted, not necessarily the organisation to which they are affiliated.

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