CEDA roundtable: Strengthening diversity in Victoria’s digital tech sector

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Mia Director Deirdre Diamante recently spoke about “Strengthening diversity in Victoria’s digital tech sector” at a roundtable boardroom briefing to CEDA Trustees.

It was a great opportunity to drive conversation with industry leaders about diversity in tech – in particular the numbers of women and other under-represented communities in Victoria’s tech and ICT sector.

Female representation is less than 24 per cent, and only around nine per cent in higher tech roles. Moreover, other minority groups, such as the LGBTI community and Indigenous Australians, are even further under-represented.

diversity in tech
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Deirdre started by pointing out why the lack of diversity in the tech sector is a problem, with one of the key reasons being that under-representation of diverse groups among those who develop solutions, leads to solutions that don’t always consider the needs of those groups. She also pointed out that evidence shows that companies and industry sectors enjoy greater productivity and employee satisfaction, when they get diversity and inclusion right.

“Workplace cultural diversity and productivity are closely related. But the potential benefits can only be realised if organisations foster a conducive atmosphere for their diverse workforce,” Deirdre said.

To provide examples of how organisations can drive diversity in tech and manage the cultural change, Deirdre shared a number of successful organisational initiatives recognised by the #TechDiversity Awards. While these varying initiatives spanned the education, government, media and business sectors, they shared a common commitment to driving and inspiring diversity in the tech environment.

“The #TechDiversity Awards raise the profile of those who are building inclusion: to share their stories of courage and commitment, and to amplify their achievements, inspiring others to act,” Deirdre said. “My hope is for an organisation to say: ‘That worked well for them – we should try it’.”

There was a great discussion on how technology can create ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. As we focus on diversity in tech, we create programs that are focused on girls or students from private schools and state schools that have technology on their radar. Business-run programs also focus on their employees. We need a way to include students from disadvantaged backgrounds (where some don’t even have access to WiFi).

Related to this theme of ‘haves and have nots’ is the ongoing evolution of jobs (of the future). Over the next four years, as many jobs start to be augmented or replaced by technology, the people that will be most affected are those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and women, who typically deliver those jobs. We must start looking at increasing the technology capability of these communities and their families.

The boardroom briefing took place in Melbourne on Thursday 27 February and was hosted by CEDA member, SEEK. CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia) is a national, not-for-profit, independent, member-based organisation providing thought leadership and policy perspectives on the economic and social issues affecting Australia.

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