Growing up in apartheid South Africa, I lived in a country governed by white minority—people were divided into four racial groups and kept apart by law. The system was used to deny many rights of non-white people, mainly the black people who lived in South Africa.
We had a black maid called ‘Betty.’ She didn’t eat with us and had her own cutlery and plate. One hot day, Betty was sitting outside on the concrete, sipping a cup of tea. I was about seven years old at the time and sat down bedside her. I asked why she didn’t come and sit inside with everyone else. Betty replied, “Because we are not the same.” I remember getting up and marching purposely into the house. I came back outside with a needle and pricked my finger and pricked Betty’s finger too. Two little red droplets appeared on each finger.
“Look,” I said, “We are the same… We are just the same.”
Looking back, that experience is what defined me and my career. Now, as the CEO and Director of IT recruiting company GMT People and the Chair for the Victorian Information Communication Technology for Women Network (VICICT4W), I have the opportunity to champion change and promote diversity in the IT sector. Here are five lessons I’ve learned from driving diversity from the bottom up in schools, and the top down in leading industries.
1.Find the invisible barriers to entry, retention and promotion
At GMT People, often in the recruitment process we come up against the invisible barriers that Diversity can ignite. This can sometimes prevent organisations from hiring the right person for the job. For candidates, the unconscious bias feeds unconscious limitations and can often prevent a candidate from achieving their full potential at the interview stage, and in their career progression.
Women are less likely to apply for an IT role unless they are the perfect fit—unless they have had the direct experience being asked for in the job description. In our recruiting process we work to uncover what our candidates are capable of. Through a series of meetings, we gain the trust of both our clients (the employers) and our candidates so that they can feel comfortable sharing what’s really important. They may not have had the specific experience, but in another setting or in another industry, their experience could be the underpinning skill or cultural fit that the client is looking for.
During the recruiting process we tease out a candidate’s experience by unpacking and reminding them of their capabilities; this helps to promote a candidate’s confidence and gives them practice and the ability to access and share their relevant experience at the crucial interview stage.
2.We need more women in tech
Working with Victorian Information Communication Technology for Women Network (VICICT4W) creates fantastic opportunities to lead change in IT related industries. We are passionate about getting more women into IT and encourage them to excel, explore and expand their potential. Our programs are designed to actively demonstrate to schoolgirls, university graduates and industry leaders that IT offers great career opportunities for women.
Diversity and inclusion are something we, as people, workplaces and nations have to keep working at and this inspires me and motivates me every day. In this male dominated IT industry where women represent only a small percentage of the workforce, women can be confident that their experience and capability in IT is relevant and will provide a rewarding career path.
In recruitment I believe that it is about finding the right person for the role; gender, age, cultural background and ethnicity are not barriers.
3.It’s time for a more holistic approach to data-driven recruitment
Increasingly, recruiting is driven by content, job boards, resumes and online screening processes all dictating what a job should be and how the candidate should be. While this content and artificial intelligence does do a lot of the pre-selection work for candidates, it always comes down to the rigorous face-to-face process that uncovers the buried capabilities and often untapped potential of each person. This potential can often be cloaked in a quiet personality or a shyness or a cultural identity. It can be very difficult to understand and assess a person’s ‘fit’ for an organisation from data only.
During our meetings with clients and candidates, we look beyond the limitations of content and words and guide a process that uncovers the hidden potentials and capabilities and reasons that will place the right person in the right job.
4.The business case for diversity in the workplace is overwhelming
Accepting diversity and inclusion in a workplace creates a representation and microcosm of society and understanding of global thought in the outside world. This keeps companies relevant and encourages and promotes innovation and thought leadership. It opens the way for employees to contribute in ways that are beyond what they thought they could do.
This is how we change the world. This is how we come up with great inventions and bring the impossible to life. Studies show that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.
McKinsey & Company’s ‘Delivering through Diversity’ reports: “Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic/cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability.”
The business case for gender equality
Diversity is the world we live in. We are not less because of the way we look, who we love or how we identify. Capability and diversity of thought sets people apart and when companies harness, support and accept people’s differences, business benefits and employees can be free to actualise their potential.
5.Diversity is a reality, inclusion is a choice
Growing up in apartheid South Africa was the fuel that lit my passion for gender equality and diversity, both in life and the corporate sector. My agenda is to see Australia have access to a more balanced and diverse workforce to ensure we have a robust IT industry in the future.
GMT People provides a platform that fosters inclusivity and helps to create balance in the workplace. VICICT4W paves the way for women of the future to take on epic career pathways and use positions in the IT and related industries to live out their passions and help change the world.
A diverse and inclusive workplace is an innovative workplace that is able to draw from a range of backgrounds and experiences. This, I believe, is where the ‘Pot of Gold’ will be found.
CEO GMT People-driving a balanced IT workforce
Like to know more about how we can help?
Please call me on (03) 86139903
Like to get involved? Find out more here
Workplace Gender Equality Agency WGEA (Page 9 Figure 2 Gender Strategy Tool Kit)
McKinsey&Company – Report ‘Delivering through Diversity’ (Page 10)
Authors –V. Hunt S. Prince S. Dixon-Fyle L. Yee (Jan, 2017)