Slalom Australia HRD on changing the narrative of male-dominated tech sector

Women are leaving the tech industry at an alarming rate

Slalom Australia HRD on changing the narrative of male-dominated tech sector

Growing tech start-up Slalom Australia is championing the achievements of its female employees in a bid to inspire more women to join the industry.

After opening its first Australian office last year, the company has expanded rapidly and now, a new campaign aims to raise awareness of how both men and women are changing the narrative within the tech sector.

Speaking to HRD, Slalom’s head of HR, Brooke Adams, said diversity is a key ingredient for innovation and without it, the industry will suffer.

“We know that too many women are leaving the tech industry,” she said. “And interestingly, recent research shows that it's for reasons other than having children so there's a number of issues we need to address there.”

Global research released in 2020 found half of young women who go into tech jobs leave by the age of 35 and the primary driver is a non-inclusive company culture.

Culturally, there are factors that have made it difficult for women to thrive in the tech industry. Poor, often male-dominated leadership, traditional hierarchies, discrimination and sexism can all make a job unbearable and it’s no wonder that some women have taken their skills elsewhere.

But with Australia standing to make significant economic gains from the country’s growing tech sector, Adams said now is a critical time to level the playing field between the genders.

Read more: More than half of Australia's workers hide true selves at work: Study

As part of Slalom’s #BuildHer campaign, the company has championed stories of women and men in the business. The content series aims to shine a spotlight on their achievements and the exciting and rewarding careers on offer within the industry. Internally, Slalom also has a focus on mentoring and sponsorship programs, building career pathways from the ground up.

Adams said when approaching the issue of D&I in a male-dominated industry it can feel insurmountable, but Slalom is tackling one issue at a time.

“The first step has been really increasing awareness of biases and providing leaders with tools and the empowerment to call out unacceptable behaviour,” she said. “Biases are so deep rooted and sometimes we don't even know that we're doing it. But if we start to educate, people will start to look for bias and if they can see it, they can stop it.”

Slalom aims to achieve a 50/50 gender split by 2025 and as a result, Adams said they are working hard to improve the diversity within the recruitment talent pool. One example has been using alternative talent sources through community partnerships with Girl Geek and DevOp girls which have helped the recruitment team look beyond the Big Four.

Read more: Amazon HR: ‘Inclusion is the norm for all’

Adams said she is also proud of the company’s parental leave package which gives 14 weeks paid leave to primary caregivers and 12 weeks to secondary, with no eligibility period.

“The investment in this benefit was really important and it was intentional by all of our leadership team,” she said. “It creates that equal opportunity mentality because primary and secondary caregivers are getting almost an equal amount of time off.”

As Australia’s tech businesses continue to scale and grow, these sorts of initiatives will need to be front and centre in order to improve the current situation for women. Now with many businesses truly embracing flexible working, the conditions are ripe to significantly boost the number of women in the industry. But in order to retain great talent, inclusive cultures and diverse leadership is going to be key.

But Adams said she has a personal driver for improving D&I too. The support she has received throughout her career in HR has inspired her work at Slalom over the last year.

“I've been very lucky in my career to have had brilliant mentors so this for me is a way of paying it forward,” she said.

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