March 07, 2021

Hear From Our People: Women in the Workplace Q&A

Data#3 is celebrating International Women’s Day this year by hosting a series of Q&As with some of our people. For us, this is a great opportunity to take a moment to appreciate the fantastic women we work with, celebrate how passionate they are, and reaffirm the importance of diversity in the workplace.

In this Q&A you’ll hear from our female leaders on career-defining moments, accomplishments and inspirations. You’ll also hear from their male counterparts on ways to encourage and assist women in the workplace, their most inspiring female leader, and the role diversity plays in business.

Neha Mehta,
Systems Engineer

(Q) What actions would you recommend for individuals seeking to challenge the status quo?
(A) One of the biggest roadblocks when challenging the status quo is to find the confidence to speak up against the conventional methods. Don’t let the fear of prejudices and being a minority at work garble your voice; especially in the tech field which is dominated by our male counterparts. Do your research, spend time in accumulating facts, present your view assertively and never be afraid of failure. Your skills and experience become your power when you feel comfortable enough to impose them. Value your own opinion, because your participation creates power, bringing a new perspective to the tech industry.

(Q) Can you share an example of where you’ve challenged the status quo to drive an outcome?
(A) Embracing change in existing affairs is a demanding task which takes courage, hard work and open-mindedness. I once interviewed for a Systems Support position and the interview went fantastic, so I waited for positive feedback. The next day, HR called and explained how impressed the interviewer was with my skills; however, they couldn’t take me onboard as they thought a young female engineer was not suited to work in a warehouse full of labourers and truck drivers. I requested she arrange another interview. At first she was reluctant, but finally gave me second chance, based on the influencing discussion in the previous interview.

I dressed in a semi-formal t-shirt and jeans this time and went to the interview site. While the interviewer was showing me around the working environment, a warehouse worker came over with the issue of flickering screens. I quickly grabbed the opportunity and offered the interviewer to help. It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes to go under the table and fix the faulty dock connection. The interviewer was astonished by my dauntless work ethics, after which he was happy to take me onboard.

That day I felt a sense of accomplishment as I succeeded in breaking the stereotype of an interviewer not hiring women as IT engineers in a warehouse based on presumptions.

Tash Macknish,
Group Manager for Organisational Development & HR

(Q) As a senior female leader, what advice would you give young aspiring females in the tech industry?
(A) I have three pieces of advice that have really helped me with my career:
1. Find a mentor or several
I have been truly fortunate to have had great mentors throughout my career. People I have trusted and respected, people who have coached and guided me, but also challenged me to be better, do better and think outside the box. People who have had my back. Whether that is within your organisation, your industry, outside your industry, university, it doesn’t matter. It must be someone you respect, trust and can be truly honest with. To this day, I have a group of “go to” mentors, both male and female, that I call when I need extra support or a sanity check. No one has all the answers and sometimes when you are in a situation where you can’t see the answer or a way forward, being able to step away or outside and have a different approach really helps you gain the clarity and focus needed.
2. Don’t ask, don’t get
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, put yourself forward, ask for a new opportunity… be brave and ask. The worst that can happen is the response is “no”. But you know what? The response could be yes. By asking questions and putting yourself forward it shows initiative, it shows you are passionate, driven, it builds your profile, expands your network and allows you to grow and develop. Be bold. I find that men are much bolder than women and are not afraid to put themselves forward, whereas women wait to be asked. If you want something and you are up for the challenge just ask. The answer may not be yes on this occasion but don’t give up. Ask again. It may be the timing isn’t right, but it might be next time.
3. Don’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome
One of my managers used to repeat this to me over the years, and I don’t think I ever really understood the importance of this message. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, or we want things to be different, or we want more or something else. Whether that be a process, a new role, a project that’s gone off the rails or even a working relationship that isn’t working. You need to mix it up, do something different and try a different approach. If your career is stuck or you’re not getting the recognition you need, stop, assess and look for a new approach. What can you do different? What haven’t you done or tried? Who can you talk to for advice or guidance? Don’t give up – just keep reassessing and looking for new ways to get that outcome.

(Q) What are some of the challenges facing women in leadership and how can they be overcome?
(A) I personally believe many women in leadership feel that they need to work harder, do more to prove themselves, prove that they deserved that promotion or that seat at the table. The journey into a leadership role for many women is longer and harder (especially in the tech industry), and I believe once women find themselves in leadership roles, they feel the pressure to prove that they deserve the role; so they work harder and put so much more pressure on themselves to perform. Many women, and I include myself in this category, suffer at times with imposter syndrome. A feeling of self-doubt, a feeling of not being good enough or being exposed at any point in time. One of the best ways to overcome this is by working in an organisation with a strong inclusive culture, strong values and men sponsoring and supporting women across the business. And don’t forget the mentors, your tribe, the people you can talk to about how you’re feeling, the support crew who will keep you grounded.

Yasmine Mendoza,
Account Executive

(Q) What obstacles have you observed, for women in tech, specifically? How did you overcome this or how would you recommend others face this challenge?
(A) A common challenge I have observed and also experienced, is women with young children attempting to blend work and their home lives successfully, whilst building a career in tech. It is a constant challenge, however I have found by building a close support network of family etc., it has helped me manage my work/life balance a lot better.

(Q) What are the benefits of diversity/inclusion in the workplace?
(A) I strongly believe when working in an environment that is diverse and inclusive, it provides a sense of belonging and you feel a lot more connected with work. This allows your team to feel more motivated, they’ll work harder and produce quality work for that organisation.

Paula Fountain,
National Sales Manager – HP Enterprise

(Q) What barriers have you observed, for women in tech, specifically? How did you overcome this or how would you recommend others face this challenge?
(A) Seeing the daily struggle female friends and colleagues face in balancing business and family is still one of the biggest challenges for women. I don’t have children and sometimes I wonder if I did would my career have progressed in the same manner.

I have witnessed many female peers resigning or decline management positions because they don’t want to sacrifice family harmony. Women feel enormous pressure of having to keep the household humming and then carry a lot of guilt when they are unable to achieve this in conjunction with their work commitments.

What is encouraging is that compared to when I first entered the IT industry 25 years ago, there has been more progress in this space in the past 3 years than I have witnessed in my whole career span. I feel privileged to work with amazing women who inspire every day and look forward to seeing our young female talent more easily reach their career dreams as the world works towards gender equality.

Companies now are looking at parental leave differently, and introducing mentoring programs. This coupled with latest developments in technology allows for more flexibility to work from home. Having a good mentor and a manager is crucial to challenging the status quo, the mentors I have had have assisted with mapping out career development paths that allowed me to feel empowered to navigate career progression without compromise.

In a now-classic study, Barbara and Gene Eakins recorded seven university faculty meetings. They found that, with one exception, the men at the meeting spoke more often and, without exception, spoke longer. The longest comment by a woman at all seven gatherings was shorter than the shortest comment by a man. I recently referred to the findings in this study a while back in a management team meeting – which had 2 x female and 6 x male members – to bring awareness of the importance a female feels that their ideas and thoughts are being heard, as this goes a long way to giving you the confidence to be seen as a valued contributor.

The women I witness that are best able to overcome gender based challenges in IT right now are the ones that seek and request the company to invest in them. They focus on continually developing their expertise and staying up-to-date with the industry trends. This coupled with a business that has programs and policies in place that assist with breaking down those antiquated gender-based cultural values that can hold women back can be the difference in enabling women in realising their career aspirations.

Garrett MacDonald,
Chief Marketing Officer

(Q) Why is diversity important in the workplace?
(A) Having a diverse workplace is not just an important asset but a key imperative and differentiator of a modern business. An organisation with a diverse workforce is more likely to understand customers’ real-world problems and help them come up with innovative solutions to solve them.

(Q) What do you think are the best ways to encourage and assist women to become leaders?
(A) I’m trying not to oversimplify this but the common traits I see in the amazing women leaders in Tech are that they display their confidence, challenge the status quo, share their successes, seek increased responsibility and they seize opportunities to succeed! The challenge for all organisations is to provide an environment where we encourage and nurture all the amazing female talent we have to build these skills and develop them into the next wave of leaders in our industry.

Marayka Chen,
HPI Device Specialist

(Q) What are the biggest challenges for women in tech?
(A) The challenges that I have come across and observed being in a generally male dominated industry is that women seem to have self-doubt, imposter syndrome or are afraid of speaking up. What was interesting to find out, was that I wasn’t the only one going through this.

Last year, I was invited to Data#3’s Listen and Learn session as a part of the Microsoft Male Champion of Change. That’s where I learnt more about how other women (even within Data#3) have unfortunately gone through similar issues. I am grateful that I was able to be a part of this session and proud to see that Data#3 is wanting to make a change and push for gender equality in IT – that is generally known as a male-dominated industry.

In my role, I am also incredibly lucky to have a female manager and plenty of female role models in managerial positions within Data#3 and HP. The benefits of having more women in tech is not only for diversity and the different experiences that we can share, but also the ability to lean on each other when there are those moments of self-doubt.

Russell Shooter,
Sales Manager – Services

(Q) What do you think are the best ways to encourage and assist women to become leaders?
(A) Women need more women mentors – organisations should look to develop formal support structures for women. I know it can be a catch 22, where there are insufficient internal resources to draw upon; we should look to identify external mentors to assist. Women need support and encouragement from other women to guide and direct them into more senior roles.

(Q) Is there a particular female leader that you look up to? Why?
(A) I have been exposed to many successful women in my career, particularly in my tenure at HP, where they had many women in senior management roles, including two CEOs, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman. The woman I admire most, though, is Julia Gillard – Ms Gillard demonstrated immense strength of character, intelligence, resilience, and tenacity to climb to the top of Australian Politics, a very male-dominated environment. Under tremendous pressure and scrutiny from all side of politics, the press, and the public, she conducted herself with grace and dignity, highlighted with her Misogyny Speech in 2012. Not to mention, she has been the only recent prime minister who has exited politics gracefully, also a ringing endorsement of her character.

(Q) Why is diversity important in the workplace?
(A) I’ll answer this from a cultural diversity perspective; an organisation with cultural diversity and a focus on developing women into leadership roles will have a deeper and wider pool of talent and ideas to draw upon. This diversity means the organisation has a broader perspective than most enabling improved innovation, creativity driving potentially better financial outcomes.

Leanne Muller,
Non-Executive Director

(Q) As a senior female leader, what advice would you give young aspiring females in the tech industry?
(A) Go for it! Now more than ever business is looking for talent. Find what you love and go for it!

(Q) How do you see the skills gap impacting the number of women in the tech industry and what can we do to improve it?
(A) In the services-based Australian economy, the competition for skills is immense and unrelenting. Accordingly, organisations need to think laterally about how capability is grown, acquired and retained. In my opinion this means we need to be encouraging and supporting people with relevant (but not necessarily direct) education and experience to build the skills required for the future. It also means continuing to support different ways of working and diversity of opinions. These are all positive developments for women wishing to enter the tech sector.

(Q) What are some of the challenges facing women in leadership and how can they be overcome?
(A) I think a key challenge for women leaders is to find their authentic voice. Look at a diversity of role models across society and compare and contrast their styles. Be conscious of, and work on your own approach. Listen and seek feedback. Leaders are not expected to be perfect. Be kind to yourself and others.