ed/it women co. at Female Entrepreneur Week

We came across Tank StreamLab's Female Entrepreneur Week on their socials and instantly thought "what a great idea!"

The ed/it women team attended different sessions during the week and here's some of our thoughts...

How to navigate, build and scale through the idiocy of unconscious bias

I didn't know what to expect going into this session as I thought I knew about unconscious bias, I left with a wealth of knowledge about how it affects women and strategies of how I could empower myself to identify it and help to spread a message of diversity within my workplace and my circle of influence.

 

Here's my key takeaways:

 

The tech industry has had very incremental change in diversity  there are systemic biases such as working hours, parental leave, pay scale and lack of career progression that  make it more difficult to retain women. Other barriers include common misconceptions of  "Ï don't know tech, I don't code or game"

"Be conversant in tech" - Kristi Mansfield, CX Director, Oracle; emphasised the need to use and familiarise yourself with the technical language  of technology and how it is applied to empower yourself with the know-how to make strategic and informed decisions. We need to know how to build product or work with people who can help us prototype. You don't need to code everything but you need to understand code and how it affects systems. 

There are a lack of women investors. Pitching to a panel is difficult but the lack of diversity represented on investor panels make it intimidating for women.

 "ïf people don't feel it, they won't feel it is necessary" when there is disconnect between data and human emotion and perception of bias, true diversity is not being represented. Anecdotal evidence is also valuable in identifying areas to improve in organisations to be more inclusive. 

AI and machine learning can make bias worse, multifaceted developers and designers who are conscious of their biases are need to represent a wider variety of perspectives need to be a part of the conversation. Here's a TED talk that I came across that really drilled this message into me.

 

Women's resumes use the terms "Collaborative" more which is why gender decoders are used for resumes to eliminate bias at the initial stages of screening for potential employees. An issue that was raised related to who designs these decoders and are their specific biases programmed into this system?

We all have unconscious bias and it is our personal need to identify it and make it conscious. SheStarts judging room for pitches goes through unconscious bias training and confronting these biases to understand and address them.

You're not being whiny if you call out bias. Don't allow it to persist and identify it in the moment and give people the chance to realise their bias and the opportunity to shift their perceptions of what diversity is.

Your perception of success is biased, (the way people dress, speak, carry themselves and their achievements) can also shape who you associate with and choose to network with. Be outspoken, be assertive in identifying your own biased beliefs to help others counteract them.

Educators need to help parents shape students' perception of the role of tech in their careers and their influence starts at home. Parents have a pivotal influence on their children's future study and career paths because of their own biases and how they picture "success" or what they think of as an acceptable or respectable career path. 

Tech isn't an industry, its an economy technology touches almost every industry and employability increases with your knowledge of how it can shape the future landscape of your chosen path. Parents need to actively encourage their children to pursue a variety of subject areas in school and encourage curiosity with technology and responsibly use it, rather than restrict their use of it.

"but she's not academic" one of the panellist told a story about how a female student was told that she wasn't considered intelligent enough to study a STEM subject based on her parents' perceptions of her past performance in traditional subjects and not on her potential. Systemic unconscious bias is still strong when you actively work against it consciously based on familial and societal influences embedded within our childhood and adulthood about "girls study this" or "that's a boy's subject"

Why should more women learn to code?

The panellists at this session were a great combination of experts in the field - ranging from the moderator Rowan Avis, a Digital Strategy Consultant from IBM to Nicola Curnow the National Program Manager at Code Club Australia

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"Why should more women learn to code?" panellists

L - R: Rebecca Watts (Right Click Capital), Nicola Curnow (Code Club Australia), Sarah Markowskei (IBM

 

The panel of three women spoke about the challenges that they had come across, and how they felt that it was important for women to learn to code. 

Sarah from IBM stated that in the short term, more women are required in management as they act as amazing role models, and this can act as an end goal for other women. It would act as an impetus for further gender equality across the board. 

The audience had a lot of great questions about the importance of coding for women - it doesn't necessarily have to lead to a career in coding, but an understanding of technology and how it works is so valuable for a contemporary work environment. 

In terms of our students, it helps to facilitate a great range of skills, those soft skills that are so important as a "21st century learner" such as critical and creative thinking. It was interesting to hear the panel echoing a lot of ed/it women co's own messages about changing the culture around technology. Rebecca Watts, from Right Click Capital advised that "what you look like is [not] what you can deliver... no! It's what you can give [to the role}". 

Overall, Tankstream's Female Entrepreneur Week gave women the opportunity from a variety of industries to talk about their experience in the field and challenges they face everyday. The importance of support for female entrepreneurs cannot be underestimated and to have this week of events available was terrific.