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IWD2019: How can we increase diversity in Tech?

In case you’ve missed it, today is International Women’s Day! We hope this day sparks discussions far and wide about how women and groups lacking representation in technology can be encouraged to join us. 

We get asked pretty regularly… “How do we get better representation in tech?” To answer that question we’ve put together all the wonderful suggestions from the blog series and our very own Silverponders. While you’re at it, feel free to learn a little more about these incredible people. 

What diversity initiatives would you like to see in the tech industry?

Millie

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Millie is a PhD candidate at University of Melbourne in Experimental Particle Physics

It’s always a fantastic thing to have those already in an industry learn why diversity initiatives are needed. Otherwise the work of reform tends to fall on those who need it least – the ones already being pushed out of the industry! 

Workshops designed to educate on unconscious bias and the ways it can manifest are a great start.
I’d also love to see increased advocacy for policies that promote an inclusive culture, eg. easier access to maternity/paternity leave for parents, visible acceptance and support of minority groups from leadership, greater flexibility in working hours, and dedicated days/weeks of celebration to promote visibility (e.g., NAIDOC week, Wear It Purple day, Headspace Day, etc).

Ayesha

I would love to see more frequent women and LGBTQ oriented workshops and scholarships! 

I know so many talented women and people in minorities that don’t pursue technology in-depth not because they are lacking the skills, but because they think “it isn’t for them” and they are rarely told otherwise. These initiatives will help alleviate this huge gap and help grow an untapped intellectual resource.

ayesha_ahmed_twitter

Ashley is an adamant community contributor and blogger. Check it “Diary of a Robot Building” here.

Ashley

Ashley is a Molecular Biologist by day, studying Bioinformatics

Attending an inclusive workshop made it easier to get started, because I knew I was going to be amongst a supportive group of people who would work together to push everyone up, rather than compete with them. 

Likewise, I think that having similarly targeted meetup groups and networking events would encourage more people from underrepresented groups to step into, or stay in, the MLAI industry.

Genevieve

I think I’d like to see more [scholarship] funding for programs that build skills or contribute to career development… I wouldn’t have been able to be there otherwise. 

Genevieve is bringing data science to BioMed research at Monash University

Brooke

Brooke has just scored her dream job with EA Games. She is also sharing her data science experiences in her blog “Girl vs Data”

1. More women speakers at conferences, and more diversity in panels. I’ve been hearing the phrase “You can’t be what you can’t see” passed around a lot lately, and it’s absolutely right. Seeing people like you speak at conferences or events is hugely beneficial to everyone at the start of their careers. It gives you something to strive towards, and helps to find people who share the same passions and the same struggles.

2. Teach young girls about the huge range of tech career options available to them. I wanted a creative tech career, and I had assumed the only options for me had to do with design, illustration and 3D animation, because these were all I was exposed to in school. I wish I’d learnt how creative coding could be! I hadn’t even heard of Data Science until about 3 years ago, and until then I had never even considered a career in programming. 

Lizzie

We need to focus on developing early-career people into mid-career and senior people. This is the leakiest point in the pipeline, with the fewest resources for underrepresented groups. There are already fellowships that will help someone break into tech, but I know of zero programs that will take a candidate with some experience and help her get to the next level. 

It’s harder for minorities to get these opportunities from their employers; minority candidates are routinely passed over for the tasks most likely to lead to promotion. At the same time, every company is trying to hire from the same small pool of senior minority candidates. Industry needs to invest in early-career candidates and turn them into senior candidates.

 

Lizzie is a Silverponder, committed to using her skills for social good. 

Susie

Susie is the Marketing and Community Manager at Silverpond.

There are so many resources to help people learn about the issues surrounding diversity, connect with others, and start making changes, even if it just starts with being aware of the bias you carry.

If your company or community does not provide any programs, resources, or initiatives to support diversity, you still have options. There are online tools and templates to help you get started, including templates for HR policies and programs to support you as a changemaker. Anyone can be a trail blazer and make a positive change.

There’s an interesting GitHub page called “So, you just learned that there are problems in the tech industry. What now?” that’s a great place to start.

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