Incredibly, 400 women registered for a ‘Women Slaying Tech’ panel session run by General Assembly last night, in partnership with Women’s Agenda.
While it definitely had something to do with the lineup of panelists sharing their stories, including Spotify Australia boss Jane Huxley, Bumble Australia head Michelle Battersby & studio founder Samantha Cordingley, the great turnout also proved that women are interested and passionate about careers in tech.
Indeed, so popular was the session that GA are now running a similar booked-out session, with another 400 women registered again for next week.
I was lucky to moderate the panel featuring Jane, Michelle and Sam, to learn about their stories coming in to tech (none had formal tech qualifications), as well as their ideas and advice for others looking to progress in the sector.
One thing I took away was that they all work really, really hard. While they might have some flexibility (and they’re ensuring their teams do too), they’re putting in plenty of hours and throwing everything they have at the roles. It no doubt helps that they’re all in love with their jobs. Jane said she has the best job in Australia. Michelle said she doesn’t ever feel the need to say, ‘Thank God It’s Friday’.
But there were a few things I couldn’t help but takeaway from the audience.
Firstly, it was a young crowd (my observation only). It was an engaged audience, they were there to listen and learn from these panelists. When asked if flexibility was important to them, even more important than pay, the majority said yes.
Secondly, there were a number of frustrations expressed in questions from the audience (and later in conversations I had with audience members) about the state of the industry, and some of the hurdles they’ve already come up against.
These were disappointing to hear, especially from such a young audience.
One woman had been to a large tech event just this week to find that the audience was overwhelmingly male, and that the program was male dominated. This, she said, was in stark contrast to the large number of women who had turned out for the GA session. How do we get men into the room to hear stories from women, she asked.
Another raised concerns about the gender pay and leadership gaps within her particular field. It’s still there and it doesn’t appear to be disappearing anytime soon.
Another noted that while she had plenty of experience teaching kids to code, when she took that experience into job interviews she found she was being told ‘that’s so great you do that!’, only to then be told that it wasn’t the type of experience they were looking for.
Post event, I was disappointed to hear from a young woman who said she’d already been knocked back on her requests for flexibly work — she wanted it so she could further her education in business. Another mentioned some of the dinosaur comments she was continually getting from an older man in her office. She said she didn’t feel there was anyone she could turn to in order to make them stop, and as such was making active efforts to get a new job.
Finally, another told me that she had recently made an excuse not to attend an industry-related conference because she was worried she’d be the only young woman in the room — a fair assessment to make given the speaker list was overwhelmingly dominated by older men.
These are just some of the concerns raised, many other women there didn’t raise any issues at all, but the above were certainly disappointing to hear.
The tech sector needs more women. I believe that the strong interest in this women’s panel indicates that women are keen on pursuing and excelling careers in this sector. But there are still hurdles, frustrations and difficulties facing women that need to be addressed — and for some, these hurdles are coming up long before they have, or consider having, children.