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We need to get more women in tech

The tech industry is notorious for its lack of gender diversity. These women are doing something about it.

Chatelle Lynch and Vanessa Doake are both working to recruit more women to the global tech industry.

The former is a girl from country Victoria is on the board of McAfee, one of the world’s largest security technology companies, a position she was appointed to before her 40th birthday. In 2016 she was named the Stevie Awards’ international CHRO. Impressively, she has achieved all this while performing the role of mother to five young children, including three-year-old twins.

HRM sat down with Lynch to discuss promoting diversity in the tech industry and how she learned from personal challenges.

HRM: What are you doing on a practical level to recruit more women to the tech industry?

Chatelle Lynch: Attention, role modelling, focus and exposure are part of the multi-pronged approach to increase the number of females at McAfee. For the jobs of today, we’ve implemented female quotas in the candidate pool and interview process, which have to be met before a job offer is signed off.

There’s a whole algorithm around this area which considers things like, is it an engineering job or a sales job? And what does the candidate pool look like, based on the studies we have done? In the Asia-Pacific region the end result is that, on average, we make sure two female candidates make it to the second interview stage per job opportunity.

Another approach is values-based interviewing and pair-based interviewing where a female and male interview a candidate at the same time. It’s enlightening – some candidates direct their answers and eye contact to the male, even when the female asks a question.

HRM: The tech industry is not traditionally the most welcoming of industries for women, nor is it necessarily the ‘sexiest’. How do you get more girls into the roles of tomorrow?

CL: I actually think cyber security is pretty cool: being part of a team that protects millions of people around the world – from governments, to consumers, to schools and hospitals. But I do think that not enough young girls know how sexy it is.

So how do we get young girls excited about it, and not intimidated? That starts with exposure really early on.

At McAfee we’re doing an explorer program targeting children aged 11-18, male and female. They spend time at offices around the world, shadowing and getting development opportunities with key areas across all the company, including with the professionals finding bugs and hacks.

HRM: In the 20 or so years since you’ve risen to the top of McAfee. We hear a lot about the ‘glass ceiling’, particularly in male-dominated industries. What are your thoughts on breaking through?

CL: I see the challenges that females are up against and I’ve definitely had a lot of learning moments throughout my career.

I took calculated risks and worked out what my personal brand was going to be – it’s around things like trust, that my word matters, and when I make a commitment, I deliver on it. Another thing that’s worked for me is owning my wins. Women, Australians particularly, tend not to do this – we’re a bit modest and humble. So I’ve said to myself, ‘I’ve got to not shy away from accepting when I’ve done a good job.’

I also don’t dwell on things when they don’t go right. I’m a big believer in innovation, so I also own mistakes and move on.

HRM: Are there any times throughout your career when you’ve experienced sexism, or felt that your gender came into play?

CL: You know what? No. But that doesn’t mean other women haven’t experienced that.

I’m a strong advocate for other females – there’s nothing worse than seeing situations that could be perceived as women not supporting other women. There’s enough room in the C-suite for all of us.

I’ve just done what’s worked for me and along the way been aware of other females’ challenges, been supportive, mentored, paved the way, and created opportunities and exposure where I could for other women.

HRM: You have five young children, including three-year-old twins. How do you juggle it?

CL: I have a very, very supportive husband. But it’s really hard some days. It’s rewarding, it’s busy, it ebbs and flows – sometimes I’m a little run ragged and other times I feel like ‘I’ve got this’.

Being a parent has made me a way better leader. I double-down on challenges, I have more empathy. I understand that everybody who comes into the office may be carrying some hardship – it could be getting home to kids, a divorce, an illness – so it’s important to make an open, inclusive, empathetic environment where people don’t feel they have to hide.

HRM: A former head of Queensland government recently told HRM that juggling work and family is chaos, and women who try to pretend it all ‘works’ are torturing themselves. How important is it for women to be honest about the fact that sometimes it’s not all going to work?

CL: I’m sure many women feel like it’s chaos, some women may feel like it’s bliss. I often feel like chaos has some negative undertones, so we’ve just got to talk about our own experience.

I don’t like to put myself in the position of other women, make assumptions or tell them how to feel. I won’t say to a mother, ‘Oh it must be hard.’ Instead I try to role model.

A lot of the young women I mentor are looking for someone to tell them ‘You can do both.’ But can you have it all? Well, it depends what your definition is. But you can absolutely be a career person and also be a mother, and I’m here to show you that you can.

Vanessa Doake, Co-founder, Code Like A Girl

HRM also interviewed Doake, and asked the Code Like A Girl co-founder what she feels are the obstacles facing women in tech. We have edited her responses for concision.

Vanessa Doake: Code Like a Girl’s goal is to make sure women are equal creatives in building our technology-focused future. That’s why we offer workshops, coding camps, internships and more.

In terms of the difficulties of getting women into tech, I think a number of issues are at play. ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ has a lot of truth to it. If you don’t have those visible role models doing the role you want, it can be hard to envisage that future for yourself.

And in some cases I think we have a way to go in terms of structures and policies that we have in place in our companies. At the moment, they sometimes act as a barrier, for women in particular, to move into senior roles.

One example is around gender-neutral parental leave. We still see terminology around a primary carer getting a certain amount of support, but the secondary carer not. As women are typically tagged as the primary carer, it limits the help their partners can give.

When I think about the changes that organisations can make, it’s basic things. It’s around flexibility, part-time work, a bit of return to work support, maybe a bit of training – but so many organisations just don’t provide that. Unfortunately, it’s easier for them to hire someone who doesn’t require that support, and I think in a lot of cases that’s quite gendered.

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of HRM. Picture is of a Code Like A Girl workshop, courtesy of Code Like A Girl.

Support diversity in your organisation by building your team’s understanding of how conscious and unconscious bias can affect decision making at work, with AHRI’s in-house training or toolkit ‘Managing unconscious bias’.

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Johnny Fawcett
Johnny Fawcett

Could we all please try hard not to, at best, complicate, and at worst cause distress by targeting those innocents, in this case doe eyed male technophobes whose only crime it is is to be drawn to something they’re good at, in this case tech. Nothing is stopping, nor has it stopped women for the last 20 years from showing an interest, or actually participating in the IT world – NOTHING (other than not wanting to be a nerd with curious clothing choices). The only thing stopping women (and many [but not as many] men) from entering that world is… Read more »

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