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What more can be done to improve diversity in tech?


two people in a startup

The tech industry has made great strides with improving equal opportunity and female representation in the workforce, but there's even more that can be done in this space so I'd like to share some thoughts with you today about how we can continue to build momentum with promoting greater diversity in tech startups.

Firstly, it's important to understand why diversity matters. With a strong global footprint, Finder is live in over 19 countries so I've seen it play out and I really do believe that when you bring together people with different backgrounds and life experiences it sparks creativity and generates more innovative ideas and perspectives.

A recent study by Boston Consulting Group backs this up and found companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation.

So why is this important for the tech sector? While diversity is important for all businesses it's critical for tech start-ups because innovation is the unlock for growth and revenue, or as we like to say at Finder 'UTTR' (up, and to the right). It's also vitally important that tech companies, like Finder, have diverse teams so they can serve customers from different backgrounds and experiences more authentically.

Now I'm not claiming to be a recruitment or diversity and inclusion expert, and I fully acknowledge my position of privilege as a white male but having worked in the industry for nearly twenty years I've developed some views about what more can be done to promote greater diversity.

Before I share these views, let's look at some research to understand the key factors that have led to less diversity in tech.

Why is there less diversity in tech?

Research from the Deloitte Access Economic Report (2018) found women represent just 28% of the tech workforce, compared with 45% across all professional industries. Although Australia fares well by global standards, we've still got some work to do.

The report attributes the underrepresentation of women in tech to the low participation rate of young girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at schools and universities. As a father of two small children, a boy and girl, I want to see both of them have access to the same opportunities and be encouraged to learn in this crucial area of knowledge.

When you look at tertiary level completion rates, there's an underrepresentation of women in information technology (IT) and engineering. Figures from the Department of Industry show in 2016 women comprised less than 15% of engineering and related technologies undergraduate course completions and less than 11% of vocational education course completions.

These skills are so relevant in our digital and tech-driven economy which is why there's a great opportunity here to encourage more women to consider tech as a career. Plus, women make up half the population so we don't want the sector to miss out on so many would-be tech superstars.

So how can we continue to build momentum in this area?

As an industry, there's been plenty of incredible work and educational programs aimed at encouraging women to consider 'non-traditional' career paths.

Personally, I believe coding is a skill that everyone should learn from a young age. Why not make it part of the computer science curriculum for primary school kids in Australia? Knowing how to build a website or how to write code is a versatile skill that's becoming more and more relevant. It's certainly something I will encourage my own kids to learn one day.

There are some great non-for-profits supporting women in tech that Finder has supported over the past couple of years including #SheHacks2019, Women Who Code, Men Championing Change and more recently the Australian Innovators Challenge: Girls in Business Program that empowers high school students to solve real world issues.

At Finder, we actively seek to create an inclusive environment where each crew member feels valued and supported so they can realise their full potential. We're working with social impact business Project F which has helped us deliver on this strategy through Program 50/50 so we can create a roadmap for taking action.

It's been encouraging to see so many coding programs, workshops and diversity programs created for young women in tech, but I think government and university policy have an important role to play here too.

The Federal Government has a clear 2020 Action Plan and its Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grant which offers between $5,000 and $250,000 which is a great initiative but straight up – there's still more work to be done.

For universities, why not offer more scholarships to encourage women to enroll and complete engineering degrees? Universities could also offer greater flexibility in the way courses are delivered for part-time and postgraduate students.

When promoting engineering courses, universities should continue to position engineering as a field that requires a broad skill set, and use inclusive imagery and language to attract a more diverse cohort.

So whether it's finding a place for tech in the school curriculum, building more coding programs and workshops for young women or more inclusive promotion of tech and engineering degrees, there are many ways we can continue to drive change.

But it's time for us to do more, and it's time for us to do more now which is why I'm also proud to share that that Finder is sponsoring the Startmate Fellowship program which is a two-month program that supports equal opportunity for women in tech which kicked off this week.

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