It’s a well-known fact that females are underrepresented in the world of tech. But when you build your career in the industry, and feel the buzz of solving issues for others, the value of diverse thinking makes itself known every day.
As a father to three school-aged kids, I feel strongly that we owe it to future generations to break down any barriers that stop children following any career opportunity they choose. It becomes part of the legacy we create not just for our kids, but for our country, our economy, and the countless people who stand to benefit from seeing their fresh ideas turned into action.
The Tech Girls Movement comes to Melbourne
This weekend, we had the opportunity to welcome the Tech Girls Movement into our Melbourne office as it hosted its first showcase in Victoria, the fourth in Australia this year. The non-for-profit organisation exists to help female students apply their big ideas to technology – giving them access to competitions, mentor programs and overseas travel.
At this weekend’s showcase, teams of schoolgirls were given the opportunity to meet one another and pitch new app ideas.
“The idea is getting girls to solve young people’s problems,” Jenine Beekhuyzen, the founder of the Tech Girls Movement, said to the room of girls, parents and mentors. “I don’t know what problems you have. I have no idea. The question is, what problem do you want to change?
“We know it’s hard to be the only girl in the room sometimes, and we’re trying to change that,” she added. “You’re never too young to make a difference.”
Being role models, right now
Minister Philip Dalidakis – the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade – joined the event with his two daughters, and spoke to the full room of thinkers.
“I took my daughters to a female hackathon two months ago, and I did that so that they could see that there are plenty of young women around who are creating great things,” he said. “You are an inspiration, not just to your classmates or your friends, but to young women around the country.”
For Laura Cardinal, Xero’s VP of Product, the event was an opportunity to share some encouragement formed by her own journey into technology.
“If I could go back in time and talk to my 11-year-old self, I would have gone into this industry a whole lot earlier on than I did,” Laura admitted. “I would have told myself I could do anything in the world that I wanted to.
“Technology is not about sitting in a room all day, coding; it’s about using your creativity to solve people’s problems – and that’s exciting.
“I’ve got two young daughters, and every girl in this room is making it possible for them to do what they want to do, whatever that is. You are role models for them. The role models I didn’t have.”
Reshaping the future of innovation
As the teams prepared to pitch their apps (and my daughters started tugging on my sleeve to leave lunch and hear the app ideas), it was clear that events like these have the power to change mindsets.
“There aren’t enough women working in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] right now,” Minister Dalidakis said to me, separately. “We’re talking about companies with an average of between 13-24% female employees. In 2016, moving into 2017, that’s just not good enough.
“We need to get young women excited about future careers in STEM. Days like today, with our superheroes, are super important.
“I don’t like to put a ceiling on what we can achieve if we are able to encourage diversity in the technology industry,’ he added. “If the Wright Brothers hadn’t had wanted to fly, they’d never have got off the ground.”
“We simply need to aim to be the number one capital for diversity around the world, and if we do that, we’ll create something really special.”