Empowering women to break barriers in the world of technology

Mar 21, 2024 1:11:25 PM / by Priyanka Giri

Summer of Tech released a report last week that in 2023-24, their summer intern cohort was 51% women. Well done Summer of Tech, this is excellent news.


Here is why we need to celebrate this? 

The biggest reason why the technology industry struggles to find female talent is under-representation of women in schools and colleges specializing in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers. Young girls do not have many visible role models in the tech workforce to believe they can do it, feel represented, and see it as a career they can excel in.  

Representation matters! Young girls seeing women in a field, or a career gives them the validation that there are opportunities that they too can harness successfully. 

Having spent the last 10 years in the tech sector, I have (like many other women) fortunately or unfortunately faced the stereotypical challenges women face in this sector. I say stereotypical because we all know these challenges, we have been working tirelessly to overcome (and stop) them, and in a way, some of us have even learned to navigate through these successfully.  I have never met a woman in tech who hasn’t said how much they love working in technology but wishes it didn’t come with so many barriers to success. 

With more organizations taking that step forward to address gender gaps and being more inclusive and diverse, we can hope that the gender balance in corporates and various industries across the world will improve. We, at AoFrio, are doing our bit. Our group, ‘𝐀𝐨𝐖𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝’, serves as a dedicated space for women team members across the organization. We aim to empower one another, foster meaningful connections, and promote personal and professional growth. 

So, here are four things' leaders can start doing now to bring change:  

1. Recruitment
Gender-neutral job descriptions play a pivotal role in promoting gender equality by eliminating biases and creating an equitable recruitment process. https://www.ciphr.com/blog/gender-neutral-job-descriptions

Here is an example - 
“This role requires an ambitious, driven and confident individual, able to use their analytical skills to make tough decisions within a challenging and competitive environment.”

“This role requires a compassionate, empathetic and supportive individual, able to use their strong interpersonal skills to communicate with colleagues in a collaborative and nurturing environment.”

Studies have shown that - Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. – (https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless-theyre-100-qualified)

By ensuring our job ads are not perpetuating gender biases using words and language that might promote unconscious bias towards one gender is the first step towards attracting women candidates in STEM roles. 

2. Having a seat at the table

Equal opportunities are pivotal if we want to change the playing field and truly make a positive impact in our workplace and stand by values of Equity and Inclusion, we need to focus on empowering women in the workplace at all levels.  

Women bring unique perspectives to the table. Women are known to bring EQ and compassion in their leadership styles- two highly rated leadership skills. Giving women a seat at the table across all layers of the organization inspires other young women and demonstrates an organization’s values and action towards #equityandinclusion. 

At AoFrio, we are making it a mission to take the necessary steps to have women in various roles and working in varied capacities across the organization- AoFrio Board, Executive Team, Senior Leaders, Engineering, Software, Products, and all other Enabling Services of the organization.  

Our values at AoFrio, ‘Thrive Together’ and ‘Explore Together’ ensure we take everyone along on the company’s journey towards success and growth.  

3. Make the seat fit for women #inclusion
Women are frequently silenced or talked over. "Studies show that women only speak about 25% of the time in corporate meetings. Similarly, while analyzing lectures in Tech, the conclusion was that men have a 43% chance of being interrupted, while women have an 89% chance. Men interrupt other men about twice every 3 minutes, while women get interrupted between 2.6 and 2.8 times for the same period." (Code Like a Girl, 2017)

Therefore, it’s important to ensure the seat they have worked so hard to earn is not wobbly or uncomfortable. Having a seat is and should be a symbol of success so leaders need to check if women feel valued and heard. Making the seat fit means appreciating new thinking and ideas Leaders should care about creating an all-inclusive workplace where women can speak freely and call out non-inclusive behaviour without the fear of being penalized or making a career-limiting move.

4. Retention
Research from Deloitte indicated that women are leaving the workforce in record numbers post-pandemic. This is due to the amount of workload that they faced during the pandemic, both from home and childcare responsibilities and a growing “always-on” culture at workplaces. 2023 numbers showed a slight improvement compared to 2022 which is great news but equally an important area for organisations to address to retain their female workforce. (Women @ Work 2023, Deloitte) 

Often, we see a cookie-cutter approach in organizations where all benefits apply to all staff. While some benefits do apply to all staff, there are women-specific needs that are being catered to by various organizations around the world. 

At AoFrio, we introduced flexible working last year to our employees to accommodate childcare or other responsibilities (because let's be honest, the schools are not structured for working parents). We are proud to have scored 100% towards flexibility in our 2023 engagement survey. AoFrio also recently ensured any gender pay gaps were addressed to ensure fair pay regardless of gender. 

Inclusion and Diversity will have an impact when organizations practice what they put together in policies and forums. Empowered individuals can make great contributions toward the success of a company. Let us take that step forward as individuals and as organizations! 

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Priyanka Giri

Written by Priyanka Giri

Priyanka is AoFrio’s Head of Software Engineering that consists of Mobile, Web, QA, Cloud and Data teams. She has an extensive background in software engineering leadership and delivery management including roles at Datacom, Aurecon, Pushpay and the New Zealand Police. She is also a member of Unitec’s CS Industry Advisory Committee.

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